Media Future: Switchboard in your pocket

New services from Neotel and Vodacom bring closer the ideal of bringing together a landline and mobile number, writes Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee).

It is one of the great tragedies if telecommunications in South Africa that the number of landline phone users in the country has declined every single year since the beginning of this century. From a peak of 5.5-million users in 2000, it declined to below 3,9-million at the end of 2012. Telkom has always refused to acknowledge that there is a direct relationship between this slide and the fact that line rentals have been increased every single year since 2000.

There are other factors at play as well, of course. During this period, the cellphone user base has exploded from around 5-million to 40-million South Africans. Conventional wisdom, for those of traditional bent, has been that the landline is the first choice for making calls, because the cost of a landline call has always been below half that of a mobile call.

That has changed, though, as mobile call rates have plunged and per-second billing has become common. Now, it is a fairly easy decision to dump the landline and only have a mobile phone as a home number. After all, it can be carried everywhere the user goes.

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