As recession lingers, cell phones take over

As Americans tighten their budgets, landline phones seem to be an easy victim. AP reports that "the number of US households opting for only cell phones has for the first time surpassed those that just have traditional landlines."

Officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who conducted the survey, expected this shift to occur, but said Wednesday that the recession has hastened its arrival.

Twenty percent of US homes now rely exclusively on cell phones, while 17 percent use only traditional lines, the report found. Just five years ago, wireless-only represented 3 percent of American households, with 43 percent using only landlines.

Households that are low-income, young, rented, and Hispanic have driven the mobile-only trend, according to he CDC.

The crumbling landline market has shaken several phone companies. Verizon and AT&T posted strong fourth-quarter earnings earlier this year, but only because mobile adoption has outpaced abandoned traditional phone plans.

A vignette in the AP article demonstrated this readjusting:

Verizon Communications Inc. had 39 million landline telephone customers in March 2008 but 35 million a year later. Over the same period, its wireless customers grew from 67 million to 87 million, though 13 million of the added lines came from the firm's acquisition of Alltell Corp.

A Verizon spokesman said that he hasn't seen strong evidence that the recession accelerated this shift, but acknowledged that some dropped landlines came from businesses closing.

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