Cellphone use pips landlines

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The Commerce Commission has found landline use, or fixed-access lines used only for voice calls, continued to decline. Photo: File

New Zealanders chatted for more than 8 billion minutes on their cellphones last year — nearly four times the amount they did a decade ago.

Last year was also the first year we talked longer on our cellphones than landlines as the number of people with a home phone continues to decrease, Commerce Commission data shows.

The commission’s annual telecommunication monitoring report recorded a steady rise in the number of cellphones being used by New Zealanders in the past decade, rising by 2 million mobile connections since 2006 to 5.8 million.

On those phones we talked for 8.16 billion minutes — that is 360 million hours, nearly 6 million days.

The figures captured both residential and business connections.

Landline use, or fixed-access lines used only for voice calls, continued to decline.

The number of connections in homes fell by nearly a quarter in only three years to just under 200,000 last year.

Average cellphone calling in New Zealand reached 118 minutes per connection per month.

This was 33 minutes less than people in Britain, who talked for an average of 151 minutes a month per subscriber.

A sharp rise in the tally of cellphone calls since 2015 was a reflection of the ‘‘buckets’’ of minutes now being offered to customers on all mobile networks, telecommunications commissioner Stephen Gale said.

‘‘Mobile companies have thrown in more minutes in their mobile packages and people have slowly got used to the idea that calling on a mobile phone isn’t risky or expensive,’’ he said.

‘‘Mobile is clearly catching up now everyone realises it’s part of their package.’’

Last year was the first when more minutes were spent on cellphones than on landlines, people talking on fixed lines for a combined total of 6.7 billion minutes.

The number of fixed lines has hovered around the 1.8 million mark since 2006, thanks in part to people and businesses using a fixed line for broadband connection.

Though landline uptake was low, people held on to their existing landlines for a long time, Mr Gale said.

Often this was so older family members were able to get in touch, which would not be so common in future.

‘‘Stand-alone voice services will become very rare,’’ although it was difficult to predict how quickly that would happen, Mr Gale said.

Spark had noted a ‘‘significant’’ drop in the number of customers who had landlines, a spokeswoman said.

Only a minority who had a fixed line for broadband opted to have a voice line as well.

‘‘Instead, most new customers opt for a ‘‘naked’’ plan, which gives them broadband data, and then they use their mobiles (or ‘‘overthe-top’’ applications like Whatsapp or Viber) for calling,’’ she said.

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