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Should I Drop My Landline?
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With the introduction of unlimited airtime residential cellular services you might be pondering over the idea of going completely wireless for your residential telephone needs. As a landline owner you might pay somewhere between $25 and $45 a month (or more) for a wired telephone line into your home along with a few extra features such as call waiting and call display.

With the recent introduction of services like CityFido in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the Greater Toronto Area, and the Greater Montréal area, many people are now thinking over the idea of keeping their existing residential phone number but dropping the landline in favour of using their cell phone for both their residential and cell phone needs. In theory this makes a lot of sense, but before you decide to go completely cellular you should consider the points below.

Who uses your landline?

If your landline is used by a number of people then going completely cellular might not be the best idea since others will either need to get their own cellular line or borrow your cell phone to make calls. For families this definitely would be more expensive with everyone having their own cell phone. For one or two people in a residence, dropping the landline would make more sense, especially if both people are already paying a monthly charge for a cell phone plus for the landline.

What is your landline used for at present?

If you are just using your landline for phone calls then switching to a cellular residential line seems to make sense, but if that landline is used for something else then going completely cellular might not be in your favour. In particular, this relates to those of you that receive your high speed internet services via an ADSL line from your local landline provider (e.g., Telus, Bell). If you plan to continue using an ADSL line but drop your landline telephone then you may need to either switch over to a different internet provider (such as a cable internet provider) or pay additional charges on your ADSL line since your landline phone provider is no longer supplying your local telephone line.

Do you have any other special features on your landline?

In addition to ADSL internet services mentioned above, some other special services might include a second phone line for a fax machine, a house alarm monitor, or something else that uses your landline. If you subscribe to a digital satellite TV service, note that any service updates for your digital cable service are done via your landline as well and you won't be able to update your service without access to a landline. None of these features will be available if you decide to go completely cellular at this time.

How much long distance do you use?

The beauty of landline service is that you can choose your own long distance provider. With cellular phones your long distance provider is the same as your cell phone service provider and long distance rates are never as cheap as with landline long distance providers. On a typical cell phone you might pay $0.10-$0.35/min for a call within Canada or to the US, but make that same call on your landline and you'll likely pay only $0.03-$0.10/min. Cellular service provider companies often use their higher long distance rates to offset operational costs, which is understandable since this is what landline providers did as well before deregulation of landline long distance a few years back.

If you don't make a lot of long distance calls then going completely cellular might be an option, but if you regularly make long distance calls then you might pay more on your cellular phone bill than keeping your landline and landline long distance provider.

I should note here than some people use a third-party long distance provider for their cellular phone, but unlike landlines you need to dial an access number to use their long distance services and although rates are less than using the cellular provider's long distance service, it is never cheaper than landline long distance.

Cellular coverage in residential areas

Cell phones are not used as frequently in residential areas as on the road, downtown, or in shopping malls. Think about where you use your cell phone and likely you'll realize that only a small fraction of typical calls are made or received while you are at home.

When cellular service providers design their networks they typically do not have extensive coverage of residential areas. There are two reasons for this: first that people generally do not make a majority of their cellular calls from home. The second reason concerns the difficultly of placing cellular transmission towers in residential neighbourhoods. Have a look at any of the cellular equipment maps on this site and you'll note that the concentration of towers in residential areas is much lower than in commercial districts. Towers are often easier to place on top of commercial buildings or in an industrial area than in someone's backyard. If service providers did want to improve coverage within a residential area they need to find somewhere with a good elevation to place a tower -- likely on top of a school or as a pole in a park. Placing towers in residential neighbourhoods is often difficult as residents think the towers are an eyesore and there are concerns over radiation from the towers.
A residential repeater installed on a house is an uncommon sight

The residential cellular coverage test

If you still are considering dropping the landline and go completely cellular then make sure to do the residential cellular coverage test.

Using a cell phone with a provider that is offering residential cellular services, make a call to someone and talk to them while walking around your house. Make sure to go EVERYWHERE, including the basement, hallways, outside, the garage, etc and listen to the voice quality and any crackling or distortion effects. Cellular phones are subject to wireless interference from a number of man-made objects including cement walls, metal doors and electrical interference (TV's, computers, washing machines, vacuums, etc). Conduct this test at a few different times of day as network load may also weaken the signal in certain areas (especially in late afternoon when there is typically more demand on the network).

Natural interferences may also play an important part of your residential coverage test. The two biggest causes of signal degradation are foliage and rain. If your residence is surrounded by lots of trees then you might have poor reception using a cellular phone at home on a regular basis. Your reception might be perfect during winter months but come summer you might have very poor signal. If possible, your residential cellular coverage test would be conducted during the height of summer.

If you live in an area that receives a good deal of rain or snow then residential cellular coverage might be questionable as well. Like tree leaves, rain and falling snow absorb cellular signals and will degrade coverage. Under ideal situations you should therefore conduct your residential cellular coverage test during the late afternoon on a rainy day in mid-summer while running as many electrical devices as possible.

If you have a dual frequency handset and your provider offers services on different frequencies then make sure to do the residential cellular coverage test on both frequencies if you can. Some phones allow you to select the frequency manually, but for most the selection is automatic. Phones that use the 800/850 MHz frequency will fare marginally better in poorer coverage areas than phones using the 1900 MHz frequency due to the higher absorption rate of the higher frequency. If you cannot set the frequency on your dual frequency phone manually then find the poorest coverage location in your residence or parking garage and turn your phone on. It should lock onto the lower frequency and you'll be able to conduct your tests using the lower frequency. For Canadian readers in major urban centres this will apply to Rogers tdMA (800/1900 MHz), Rogers GSM (850/1900 MHz) and Telus Mobility CDMA in BC, AB (800/1900 MHz).

If your residential coverage is not satisfactory

If your results of the above test are not satisfactory and you'd still like to drop your landline in the future then make sure to contact your cellular provider and let them know. Cellular providers conduct coverage tests using special outfitted vehicles, but these tests rarely include drives down residential side streets or tests inside houses. If a provider receives a number of complaints about coverage issues in an area then they will likely investigate further and try to resolve the problem. This might include tweaking an existing cellular tower or installing a new microcell or repeater.

If you are satisfied with the residential coverage test

If everything checks out then likely you are ready to go completely cellular and drop the landline. Here's just a few last points to ponder over:
  • Since your cellular phone will be on more often, consider purchasing a spare battery just in case you do end up talking for a few hours one night and drain the primary battery.
  • If you are in the market for a new cell phone, consider purchasing one that sits in a charging cradle while not in use at home (like a cordless phone) to ensure a full charge.
  • If a provider offers more than one cellular frequency then consider purchasing a phone that is dual frequency. In some areas 1900 MHz phones have poorer reception than 800/850 MHz phones and ideally your phone would lock onto the higher quality frequency.
  • If you live in a apartment then you can likely leave the phone in one spot and hear it from anywhere, but if you live in a large house then you'll have to remember to carry the phone with you from room to room if you want to make or receive calls.
  • If you still like the idea of having several extensions with your landline, then there are systems you can buy that use your existing landline phones with your residential cellular line. When at home you place your cellular phone into a cradle and then incoming and outgoing calls can be made from any of the landline extensions through your cellular phone. Note that this is only available with selected phone models, so ask at your local cellular store for more details and pricing.

Who offers residential cellular services?

Fido is offering unlimited local calling within Vancouver for $45/month. Long distance within Canada and to the US is $0.10/min. Roaming outside the Vancouver area is C/US$0.20/min (in Canada/US). More info is available on Fido's CityFido website.
Fido is also offering unlimited local calling within Toronto for $45/month. Long distance within Canada and to the US is $0.10/min. Roaming outside the GTA area is C/US$0.20/min (in Canada/US). More info is available on Fido's CityFido website.
Fido is also offering unlimited local calling within Montréal for $45/month. Long distance within Canada and to the US is $0.10/min. Roaming outside the Montréal area is C/US$0.20/min (in Canada/US). More info is available on Fido's CityFido website.
Sprint and Fido are offering a combination package. You switch and continue to use your existing landline with Sprint's landline service and then receive a Fido phone for your wireless needs. Prices start at $45/month including 150 wireless minutes. More info is available on Sprint's Fido Wireless website.

If you have recently dropped your landline and have gone completely cellular then please drop me a note and let me know what positive and negative experiences you have had. Alternatively, post your questions or stories on GeckoBeachForums.com.



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