The telephone was invented in the mid-19th century. The most modern phones bear almost no resemblance to their historic cousins. Mobile phones have so many sophisticated features that you would expect analog phones to be obsolete already.
Strangely, this is not the case. In fact, around one in five phones are still analog. If you read the survey methodologies from companies like Gallup, you will find that around a third of all survey respondents are reached with landlines.
There is still a small yet persistent demand for analog phones in many industries. Mobile phone manufacturers are trying to capture these markets and drive analog phones to extinction. New 5G technology could help then reach this goal.
The unexpectedly stubborn survival of analog phones in the 21st-century
In 2014, Internet industry analyst and Harvard Business Review author Larry Downes wrote an article titled “The End of the Line for the Analog Phone.” He pointed out that only 20% of households still have analog phones. The FCC has been trying to move towards eliminating the infrastructure for this seemingly archaic technology. They have found more roadblocks than they originally expected, so analog phones remain in demand.
The reasoning behind the attempt to discontinue landline networks was predicated on the same logic that the FCC used to get rid of analog television signals. The demand for the services was dropping in the digital era.
However, Downes and the FCC have found pushing analog phones to the graveyard of human innovation has proven to be more challenging than expected. They have found that some organizations depend on analog technology and won’t easily make the transition.
Nursing homes, hospitals, hospitality companies, universities, elevator operators and emergency operators are some of the organizations that still rely heavily on analog phones. Although analog phones have very basic features, they have a huge selling point that fancier mobile phones can’t deliver on - reliability. A hospital can’t risk a call getting dropped while trying to save a patient’s life. For all of the impressive features that mobile phones offer, they still can’t compete with analog phones on this essential selling point.
However, new advances in mobile technology are helping phase out the need for analog phones. One of these developments is the emergence of 5G technology.
Is 5G technology going to finally overturn the need for analog phones?
Samsung released a press statement about the rapid development of 5G technology. 5G networks didn’t hit the markets until last year. This year, they are finally starting to go mainstream.
“In 2019, 5G came to the world. In 2020, it’s going mainstream, and bringing with it an entirely new mobile experience. With 5G speeds and connectivity, consumers can download feature-length movies in seconds, and stream 8K video in a flash. They can stream crystal-clear video calls and play graphics-rich mobile games without lag. And the best part—this is just the beginning. As 5G technologies continue to evolve, our connections will be stronger, our communications will be faster, and our lives will be more convenient,” states the Samsung press release.
Samsung isn’t the only major company that has commented on the development of 5G technology. Ooma has talked about the benefits of 5G and VoIP phone systems.
“For cellular internet service, some networks plan to launch 5G service later in 2018 with projected download speeds increasing from 71Mbps, which is the median speed on 4G, to 1.4Gbps, which is the expected median for 5G. Download latency will be reduced from 115ms to less than 5ms,” they wrote.
We don’t have much data on 5G yet, but it is clear that it is going to disrupt many industries. A lot of the articles written so far have focused on the impact of 5G on mobile technology, machine learning and other advanced technology markets. However, it is likely that more archaic industries will also be affected.
It is possible that 5G technology will finally render analog phones obsolete. It is far more dependable than traditional wireless networks. However, it is possible that it still won’t quite make the reliability standard that certain industries depend on. This just means that the future of illusions of wireless technology will eventually achieve this goal.
The lifetime of analog phones is limited. The question is whether 5G technology will finally ensure its demise.