There has perhaps never been a more important time for us all to stay in contact with one another than during the current coronavirus crisis. And, while there are so many different ways of communicating with friends and family, many people underestimate or simply forget the importance of having a good old catch up. We know WhatsApp group chats and iMessaging are great but we are all social creatures who are desperate to communicate through spoken words. 

With the decline of phone boxes and home phones being well documented in recent years we thought we’d explore people’s sentiments towards home phones and find out how landline access was evolving in the UK.

Attitudes towards landline phones

With the latest statistics from Ofcom showing the time Brits spend on landline calls has almost halved since the start of the last decade, it is inevitable that home phones will play less of a role in our day-to-day lives in the future. In a bid to better understand people’s landline habits we surveyed 100 people from across the UK. Rather predictably we found Brits are most likely to speak to their parents on a landline with 78 per cent of people saying they call their Mum or Dad’s home phone the most. Grandparents are the second most likely recipients of a call on the landline followed by a friend in third.

Being designers of phone cases we recognise people are becoming increasingly reliant on technology but, 38 per cent of Brits did admit to still being in possession of an address book – you might have to explain to teenagers about what one of those is! It was a completely different story when people were asked about using a phone box though with a whopping 95 per cent of respondents saying they had never used one.

When it came to explaining why they didn’t have a landline or ended up getting rid of theirs, nine in ten people (90 per cent) cited the fact they had a mobile phone to be the main reason. Just 7 per cent of Brits said it was down to getting too many nuisance or sales calls while others admitted to only having a landline because it came with their broadband packages.

Landlines to disappear from UK households in less than 50 years

Having built up a strong picture of people’s sentiments towards home phones, we thought we’d take a deep dive into data from Ofcom to find out just how quickly landline usage was declining. Analysing data from the past six years we were able to reveal some fascinating findings.

Our research found there are currently just less than 20.9 million households in the UK with an active landline, that’s 74 per cent of all households. While this might sound like a high proportion of people are still in possession of a home phone, in 2015, 84 per cent of households had a landline. Although this increased to 85 per cent in 2016, the number of people with home phones has steadily dropped over the past five years and there are now 2.4 million fewer households with an active home phone (one they can receive or make a call from) than in 2016.

Should landline access continue to decline at its current rate of 1.6 percent each year, in just 16 years time more than half of UK households will no longer have an active landline. By 2052 just a quarter of households will have a home phone with landlines completely disappearing from the UK in June 2067. That’s in just 46 years time!

The regional breakdown in England

Of course, landline access is declining at varying rates across the country as well. Analysis of Ofcom’s data reveals people in the East of England have been transitioning away from home phones the most. Over the last few years the number of households with an active landline in the East has dropped 3 per cent each year, a rate which is almost double the UK average of 1.6 per cent.

With several areas in the East of England such as North Norfolk being home to some of the most ageing populations in the UK, this suggests it’s not only the younger generation who are transitioning to a more digital way of communicating. In contrast, people in the East Midlands seem most reluctant to ditch their home phone with the number of households with an active landline declining at just 0.6 per cent each year. Perhaps surprisingly, the rate of decline in London falls directly in line with the UK average although this may be down to the fact many Londoners have already moved away from using a home phone.

Rank Region Yearly rate of decline of households with an active landline (%)
#1 East of England 3
#2 South West 2.4
#3 Yorkshire & Humber 2
#4 North West 1.8
#4 West Midlands 1.8
#6 North East 1.6
#6 London 1.6
#8 South East 1.4
#9 East Midlands 0.6

The International picture

The UK isn’t the only nation which continues to experience this huge digital shift away from landlines either. Across the other side of the world in Australia the decline of home phones is occurring at a much faster rate. The number of households with a landline dropped from 83 per cent in 2011 to 64 per cent in 2017 – an average yearly decline of just less than 3.2 per cent. Should this rate of decline continue, by 2037 no Australians will have access to a landline.

Back on European soil, although there are currently a greater proportion of households in France with landlines (76 per cent) than in Britain, the rate at which landline access is declining is also happening much faster than here in the UK at 2.3 per cent. 2055 is therefore the year when all French households will no longer possess home phones. Au revoir landlines!

It’s a similar story in Germany in terms of there being a greater proportion of households with landlines (84 per cent) than in the UK. However, the rate of decline over the last five years has been slower with the number of households with an active home phone decreasing by just 1.2 per cent each year compared to 1.6 per cent in the UK. At that rate, landlines would remain in Germany until the beginning of 2089.

Ranked: The rate of landline decline in the UK compared to France and Germany:

Rank Nation Number of households with an active landline Percentage of households with an active landline Yearly rate of decline of households with an active landline (%) End date of landlines
#1 France 21,936,336 76 2.3 2055
#2 UK 20,855,346 74 1.6 2067
#3 Germany 35,000,028 84 1.2 2089

Commenting on the study, director of Wrappz, Liam Williams, said: 

“At a time when people have very little choice but to keep in touch with friends and family through technology it has been fascinating to explore the trends around home phone usage, not just in the UK but internationally as well. 

“While our research highlights how many of us are transitioning to more digital methods of communication, it is important to remember the many benefits of having verbal conversations. Although mobile phones provide us with the ability to do almost anything at our fingertips, the pandemic has reminded us that plenty of people still rely on using landlines to connect with the outside world.” 

‘Emojis and GIFs simply cannot replace our tone of voice’ – a view on landlines from the experts 

With our research highlighting the growing decline of landlines across not only the UK but the whole of the world, it begs the question what impact is this digital evolution having on our mental wellbeing. While communicating in a more digital fashion has many advantages (let’s face it we don’t have much of an alternative at the minute) the importance of picking up the phone, whether that be a mobile or landline, to have a verbal conversation with somebody cannot be understated.

Şirin Atçeken, psychotherapist at medical treatment specialists WeCure, highlights why talking to friends and family over the phone has never been more important than during the current pandemic. 

She said: “People’s brains are wired to connect with each other and talking on the phone is one of the best ways to do this. Having verbal conversations allows us to express our emotions and empathise with one another. Emojis and GIFs simply cannot replace our tone of voice. 

“From an evolutionary point of view, getting together in social groups made people stronger and more resilient to survive in the wild. While this is not possible at the minute, speaking on the phone is one of the best alternatives to physically meeting up.”

Here are three reasons why Şirin believes people should favour communicating verbally on the phone rather than through text messages, emails or even video calls:

1) To express our emotions – While video calls with friends and family have become the norm over the past year, research in America has actually shown we can better understand people’s emotions when we can only hear them rather than being able to see them as well. This is because focusing solely on the voice and sounds gives people a better understanding of moods and feelings rather than incorporating body language as well. So, the next time you’ve got a FaceTime scheduled, why not try an audio-only call? 

2) Easier to find resolutions/overcome challenges – Due to the current circumstances many of us will be facing some of the greatest challenges or struggles of our entire lives. As communication is much more fluent on the phone it’s far easier for you to share your struggles and work towards finding solutions to your problems. When you’re relying on text messages or emails to communicate it can be very easy for the meaning of your words to get lost or misinterpreted resulting in little progress being made. 

3) To maintain an element of privacy – Holding difficult conversations has unfortunately become a regular occurrence during the pandemic. In these circumstances many people actually feel more comfortable communicating on the phone rather than through messaging where conversations can be referred back to, used out of context or misunderstood. A lot of time, holding discussions on the phone can provide people with a greater level of comfort as a result of this. 


To work out when landlines would disappear in the UK we analysed data from Ofcom’s Technology Tracker from January 2015 to January 2020. From this we could work out the proportion of households in the UK with an active home phone had declined by 1.6 percent each year since 2015. The data from Ofcom showed 76 percent of households had an active landline in 2020 meaning if the current rate of decline continued there would be no landlines left by June 2067. 

Using data relating to how many households there were in the UK in 2016 from Euromonitor International we could calculate there were 23,348,140 households with an active landline in 2016. With the proportion of households with an active landline declining by 1.6 percent each year we could forecast there are currently 20,855,346 households with an active landline. All data relating to the number of households in the UK, France and Germany was taken from Euromonitor International. 

We used data from Statista to work out how landline access was declining in France and Germany. Data relating to Australia was taken from the Australian Communications and Media Authority