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May 14, 2009

Can mobile broadband kill the landline?

GLOBAL – It’s well known that emerging markets are skipping the concept of landlines and jumping straight to mobiles to connect and share. In fact, the majority of the global population will first experience the Internet on their phone, rather than a PC. Does this set the stage for the future, or is it something confined only to countries where it’s a need, rather than a desire? Previously, I would have said the latter, but something I heard the other day is making me think it could well be the former.

Talking to my Mum, she asked me about mobile broadband. The reason? Her friend Mary is considering ditching her landline and getting a mobile broadband dongle for her laptop, and using her mobile for all her calls. She’s the only Internet user in her house (grown up kids have now left home and the husband would rather play golf). If this was India or Africa, we might not be too surprised (in fact, it wouldn’t really be a question) but Mary lives in southern Ireland. What’s more, she’s what we might politely call mature, not a young digital native.

I mentioned this to Mike and he described the notion as crazy. Initially. Then he thought about it and the idea started to resonate. One of the biggest challenges for Internet access in Ireland, given the layout of the population outside of Dublin is the distance people live from the local exchange. My mother-in-law gets 128k over ADSL, simply because she lives at the end of a peninsula, and a long way from the exchange. I’m now thinking of advising her to ditch her broadband and get a mobile dongle. Not only would it be cheaper, but she would get faster, better coverage.

Right now I’m in the process of signing up for 50MB broadband at home. So the notion of ditching that in favour of mobile broadband simply doesn’t work. That said, at work we don’t use desk phones, only mobiles, so we are half way there. How long though before mobile broadband proves too irresistible to the likes of me? We may not yet be on the cusp of killing the landline, but surely it can’t be far off.

Photo by dmje