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August 06, 2010



Wow Tomy,

Thanks again for this interesting fact. Lately, you really have a lot of free time :).

Anyway, I was wondering how hard the fix line got hit by mobile phone. I know lots low income family who had disconnect their fix line when the parent (husband and wife) both got mobile phone, and the kids share the 1 mobile phone. And not to mention that several high income family who used to have 2+ phone line, already cut the phone line to 1 only.

I also wondering how big the public phone got hit? From income perspective and also the number of public phone on the street.

thanks for this wonderful stats.



Land line operators are usually the same as mobile operators. That is just moving money from one pocket to the other.

Public phones were never (or at least for looong time) profitable. That was just some sort of tax on land line operators (usually monopolies) by governments to provide people who couldn't afford land line access to phone.


Could anyone - maybe, the author himself - tell me who are these 'active users'? I noticed that these 'active users' are mentioned regularly in this blog and I always wondered who they are.

I mean, how active a person should be to be counted as an 'active MMS user'? Send/receive one MMS per day? Per week? Per month? Per subscription, maybe? Or they just bought a phone that could send an MMS?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi cygnus, vvaz and Vasily

Thanks for the comments. Will respond to each individually as usual

cygnus - thanks. Haha, free time, me? No, not really, but there is the synergy of a couple of book projects, so as I draft a chapter to the book, its easy to take part of that into a new blog article haha..

About fixed line business. yeah, the world hit a peak of 1.25 Billion fixed landlines and now we are under 1.15 Billion. The phenomenon of homes with no fixed line but using only mobile phones was first observed in Finland (I happened to see one of the world's first stats to indicate it, in internal stats when I was working for Elisa/Radiolinja/Helsinki Telephone in Finland early in my career - so I'm probably the world's first expert to have talked about it in public haha). Finland became the first advanced industrialized country where more than half of homes that once had a fixed landline, had abandoned it for mobile only. Obviously a separate trend happens in the less developed countries - including Eastern Europe - where often the landline was never very widely spread and mobile is the only connection.. The EU average for abandoning home landline went past 30% a couple of years ago. I have kind of lost interest in the stat now haha, its getting so 'old news' haha..

Payphones haha, thats actually one of my stories now, as Finland became the first country to extinguish all payphones.

vvaz - that is only partly true, yes, usually the incumbent landline operator was also one of the first mobile operators. In many markets those have separated - look at O2 and BT in the UK for example - so we have former monopoly fixed landline operators that are now 'without' a mobile network. Then we get the 'new challengers' in the fixed landline business that were very popular in the 1990s, the long distance and international call operators like say MCI in the USA and Tele 2 in many European markets. They (pure fixed) operators are totally struggling today haha... Then their answer is to go into mobile (like Tele 2 or like Sprint for example)

Vasily - great question. It depends by service but yes, 'active user' typically means the mobile subscriber has used that service at least once in the past 30 days. That is how MMS and SMS active users are defined, for example. Good question. I should mention it from time to time on the blog, as there no doubt are many others who wonder about the same thing.

Thank you all for the comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Steven Hoober

Does anyone know how many mobile subscriptions are used for embedded systems? Like, industrial machinery, or scientific experiments, or vehicles or other things that use it to send SMSs with their position, or "the machine has stopped" errors or whatever.

I see a fair number of these, but totally anecdotally. I have no idea how many there actually are. I sorta wonder if it's enough to matter, and if not now if it will eventually be a big percentage.



Taken from this blog...
I think the number were 5.0 billion - 4.1 billion = 900 million



Thanks for the answer. I'm still confused though.
You said that the EU abandoning fixed line is 30%, and I think I saw somewhere that the US abandoning fixed line rate is 50%, but your number only went down from 1.25billion to 1.15 billion.

Anyway, still in communication area, but not mobile, I also see that skype might also kill fixed line. I know several office have ditch around half of their fixed line when mobile phone revolution started, and they ditch another half (of the half) when skype enabled device (without computer) start to appear.

I was wondering if the public phone were gone, how people in finland called for help if the cell phone battery were out?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Steve and cygnus

Steve - the reply from cygnus makes sense but is not correct. That is not to be inferred from the numbers. The 5 Billion number is total subscriptions, whether humans or machines. The unique user number is humans. There are two types of non-human subscription numbers, one for laptop PC connections (3G data cards, dongles etc) and the other for 'telematics' connections such as reading electricity meters, gas meters, etc, and various remote control uses, like water irrigation via GSM controls etc. The numbers are in the low hundreds of millions. Some analysts have published some such numbers from time to time. I have not given such info on this site. I do have some further breakdowns of data uses of mobile phones in the TomiAhonen Almanac 2010.. Thats all I can tell you here.

cygnus - thanks for replying to Steven, and that was a very 'reasonable' interpretation but obviously as you can see from my reply to Steven, it wasn't actually true. Sorry.. Thanks for trying :-)

About the household rate. The latest numbers I have seen for the USA were far less than that, maybe you want to double-check the numbers. It may be for some segment, like maybe the 'youth' or 'first time home-owners' but not for the total population, nowhere near half have abandoned the landline in the USA.

As to global fixed line decline - the problem is that the phenomenon started from the smallest countries like those in Scandinavia, and the number of households if obviously far less than the total population. Meanwhile the fixed landline penetration rate started to decline in Europe, it was still growing in Asia and Latin America and Africa, so the fall would be far bigger from 1.25B if there was not more new growth in the Emerging World markets (also in Eastern Europe, remember).

About public phones vs dead batteries - I have been in that situation far more than once, that when I needed a payphone, and got to one, it was vandalized and did not function. I am pretty sure the total incidents of a failed payphone was far more prevalent in situations of real emergencies, than that of every person having their phone with a dead battery haha..

BTW, I keep telling everybody, go take a picture of yourself IN a phone booth the next time you walk by one, especially if its one of those old-fashioned 'house' style phonebooths with a door - as your grandkids will not believe you when you tell them when we were young, we used to have houses built just for telephones haha...

Thank you for the comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)


I live in Hong Kong currently, but hail from Bombay and also occasionally live in Boston. The greatest decline of fixed lines has been in India.

Mobile phone are getting ridiculously cheap. A Blackberry in India costs me 400 Indian rupees per month. In Hong Kong, getting a Blackberry from PCCW costs me 600HKD/month. That is just one example. In India, now, every conceivable person has a mobile phone (Including my milkman...the same guy who used to deliver milk to my house when I was kid). My milkman now has sends SMS's, and takes pictures with his Nokia cameraphone. In a couple of ways, India even outdoes Hong Kong in mobile phone usage:

- More alerts by SMS (Check in on flights by SMS)
- Mobile Banking (I don't think I can do mobile banking on my HSBC account in HK...right?)

The land line is dying in India simply because it wasn't there (in a big way) to begin with. Mobile phones are cheaper, and ofcourse, mobile.

In developed countries, like the US and Hong Kong, fixed lines will die a slower, more painful death. But, they will die. 15 years. Perhaps.

Also, I'd just like to say that I've been following this blog for years, and this is probably my first comment. Now, if only countries could standardise frequencies so that my E71 from Hong Kong would work on 3G in Boston...alas.



I thought the number subtraction is as easy as ABC. LOL.


New Nokia, such as N8,E7,C7 have 5 band of 3G, and it cover most (if not all) frequency around the world. It's just like 4 GSM band cover 100% of GSM frequency.

And the price of BB in Hongkong seems very high to me. In Indonesia the price of full BB service (Internet + Chat + etc) is only about US$9/month. It's darn cheap....



Trend with number of fixed landlines growing up until lately can be explained in countries less developed than Western Europe but better than India for example (eg Eastern Europe) can be explained by Internet.

Until last year (or even this) to have access to Internet cheaply in your house (especially broadband) you had to have fixed landline. Only in last year prices of mobile internet skydived. Contrary to landlines there are still caps to download and upload but I think they will be abolished completely in next 2-3 years and there will be no reason to have fixed landline at all.

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