Landlines, It Turns Out, Aren’t Vanishing Everywhere

· Nov. 19, 2013, 5:55 pm

On All Things Considered, NPR’s Martin Kaste reported Monday on U.S. landline infrastructure. One fact stood out: 96 percent of homes had landlines in 1998, and that number is down to 71 percent today.

The fact that landline phones are vanishing in some countries isn’t new. We’ve covered that story — along with the concomitant rise in cellphone use. So we decided instead to look at those places where landlines are still growing, at least for now. (The numbers come from the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union.)

Surprisingly, about two dozen countries made the list, including such places as Brazil. But we narrowed the list to three countries where landline growth was highest: Cambodia, Cameroon and Kiribati.

For each of the three countries, we looked at two sets of numbers: the total number of landlines and the number of landlines per 100 inhabitants. We also looked at those numbers for cellphones.

Here’s what we found:


The tiny South Pacific island nation has only about 100,000 people, and its telecommunication infrastructure has been relatively slow to develop.

In 2008, Kiribati had 4,000 landline phones (4.14 per 100 people), a number that grew to 9,000 by 2012 (8.77 per 100 people). The growth in cellphones was as impressive: 1,000 in 2008 (1.04); 16,000 in 2012 (15.59).


The numbers in Cameroon mirror much of what has happened across much of Africa: Citizens leapfrogging landline technology, which hadn’t made it into their homes, to adopt cellphones.

As the accompanying graph shows, the number of landlines per 100 inhabitants grew in Cameroon (1.36 per 100 people to 3.6), but the number of cellphones skyrocketed (32.84 to 64.04).

Across the continent, the number of cellphones went from 32.4 per 100 people in 2008 to nearly 60 in 2012.


The numbers here were the most interesting.

In 2008, Cambodia had 43,100 landlines (0.31 per 100 residents). By 2012, that number had risen to 584,475 (4.04). The number of cellphones in the same period grew from 4.2 million (30.65) to 19.1 million (131.96).

Whether those numbers for landlines will hold is another story.

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