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Landlines versus portable/mobile

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


RolloTheRed Report 26 Jul 2013 10:34

I am not by any means advocating that remote communities ( whether in the Scottish islands or remote parts of Canada or anywhere else ) should suffer from degraded communications, far from it. fwiw I have plenty of practical experience of the problems.

What were previously monopoly organisations, often state owned, are now mostly private sector utilities whose primary responsibility is towards their shareholders. The former owner ( the state ) has relied on an ongoing duty to maintain a universal public service. Unsurprisingly the new telcos are nibbling away at this duty the more so as new technology offers alternatives to POTS.

In the UK for instance government hopes that the private sector would provide a universal high speed internet service have come to nought and even with a 100% subsidy only one commercial provider has chosen to provide a service - BT OpenReach - to rural communities. Rutland which has done its own thing.

Traditional telephone service is dying on its feet both in the workplace and to residential addresses. People under 30 hardly ever use a traditional phone except maybe to call grandma. A large share of those who could plug in a traditional phone don't bother, using the connection for internet/tv only - despite having to pay £ 15/month for phone service anyway! As well as cellphone / mobiles voip ( Skype, Vonage ) is taking away the market.

So in the end it is a matter of economics. The telcos do not want to provide POTS service and are both degrading it and closing access to it e.g. payphones, new build. The current "public service" obligation falls far short of what people in remote areas want.

The question is to what extent the state is prepared to push telcos to maintain and even improve POTS service and to what extent the state may be prepared to increase subsidy.

The more transparent these subsidies become the more the resistance will build. Residents of Glasgow and Vancouver may not care much about the communications problems of Stornoway and the Yukon.

The virtual POTS numbering scheme will remain in place far longer than physical copper connections virtualised across voice ip networks as has already happened to most of it.

My guess is that the traditional remote landscape vistas of telegraph poles snaking away into the distance will slowly disappear.


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 26 Jul 2013 09:56

So under your scenario, isolated communities are not only going to be economically deprived, but technology deprived also?

The costs involved with your suggestions aren't necessarily affordable for the majority. Let’s hope that you turn out to be wrong, or if you are right government initiative will find a cheaper option or subsidise it. It isn't as if GB has the land mass of the Third World countries to which you are drawing a parallel.


RolloTheRed Report 26 Jul 2013 08:38

An Immarsat stellite phone can be bought from around £ 400 with monthly top up fee starting at £ 15. It is also possible to get a usable internet satellite connection from about £ 50 / month.

The cost of the installation of hundreds of miles of telegraph poles and copper to remote settlements is and was extremely expensive. It has historically been carried under the public service remit. With the fragmentation of the telecoms market operators are keen to find a way out of these costs, such as by degrading the POTS service.

Many third world countries are not bothering with the classic wired solution at all but going straight to cellphone.

The telephone, telegraph and its successor the internet were and are designed for high density populations, not connecting far flung settlements. Historically this has been possible but in the future those living in remote areas are likely to have to shift for themselves a lot more now that alternatives to POTS are available.


SylviaInCanada Report 26 Jul 2013 05:28


our daughter and some friends, used to worry like mad when we went to the property for 2 or 3 weeks at a time .................... because they knew that we could not call out for help.

Plus, I have never driven ............... so we only have one driver.

However ...................... there is a small holiday cottage development on the shores of a lake about 15-20 km further down the road, and it is amazing how many cars pass the farm gate on their way there. They still would not be able to use a cell phone, but they could get us out in a pinch.

What has always bothered me more is the fact of that small hospital in the valley I talked about in my previous post. There is no cell phone service there

The powers-that-be decided that emergency should only be open between 8 am and 5 pm. Then they took away the emergency phone that could be used to call a local nurse "out-of-hours"

That left a pay phone.

Then the phone company disconnected that phone because it wasn't being used enough.

That means that anyone who follows the Hospital sign after hours cannot actually get any help!

There are some horrendous accidents on that road ......... the highest point of the road is almost 400 m above the river, and it's a very steep fall down!

Google Jackass Mountain, and look at the wikipedia entry.

sleep well


Florence61 Report 26 Jul 2013 00:04

Sylvia, you are so right. people who live in the city have no idea what its like not having access to things like full mobile coverage. There is a stretch not far from me(about 20 miles) and the vodaphone signal is nil. If you break down down in that area, your only chance of help is to walk to the nearest house(which are few and far between) and hope someone is in so you can use their landline! of course payphones are virtually extinct now but were a life saver to some.

i do always have my mobile in my car as being remote and having broken down in the middle of the moor recently, it got me help when i needed it. But its at home and especially old people who live alone where there has to be a 100% reliable communication system whatever the weather so we can keep in touch.

Nite nite
In the hebrides


SylviaInCanada Report 25 Jul 2013 21:58


The only reason I would buy a cell phone would be for the reason you cite ................... safety when driving

However .......................... when you live in a country as large as Canada, with such widespread distances between communities, it is very difficult to get the companies to install towers where there is almost 0 users.

For example ...................... we have some property about 7 hours drive away from us. All but the last 60 km is on the MAJOR highway north.

The only cell phone coverage we can depend on is during the first 200 km (although it can be intermittent in places).

There is no coverage at all in the next 100 km or so of the most dangerous stretch of road .......................... through a narrow precipitous river valley in a mountain range. That's even though there are several communities of 1,000+ people, several First Nations Reserves, and even a hospital in the valley.

For the remaining 300 or so km, there is intermittent cell coverage around the largest of the small communities (ie, those with more than about 1,500 people).

Finally, the last 60 km (a combination of paved and gravel roads) has some coverage. There is none at all at the property, or anywhere near it.

The very mountainous terrain makes it difficult to get any service many times.

Most of Canada is lightly populated ............. and cell phone companies have to make money.

I don't know what the situation is in other countries with large stretches of empty country, such as Australia or South Africa

Radio telephones are still often the main communication to the outside by isolated communities in the North and Arctic regions

The only solution here is a satellite phone .......... with its horrendous costs.

I honestly think that many people in the UK do not appreciate the difficulties faced by people who live in more isolated places, like Florence, and even myself in what seems to be a very advanced country ................... until you get 50 km away from a big city!


Annx Report 25 Jul 2013 21:18

We have a landline as well as mobiles, but I always carry a fully charged spare mobile battery with me as well in case the one in the phone goes flat. I only have PAYG but take it everywhere with me as I think it is a necessity for safety. Otherwise, if your car ends up in a ditch for whatever reason and isn't visible from the road, how are you going to get help if you are unable to get out of your car? The hours before you are found could make all the difference if you are injured.

You can get wind up mobile chargers.

Also there is a wind up mobile prototype.


Florence61 Report 25 Jul 2013 20:53

Rollo, this series was on a while ago and all about the wildlife here. It concentrated more on the inner hebrides rather than "up north" where i am but lovely wildlife.

In the hebrides


RolloTheRed Report 25 Jul 2013 20:48

There is this fantastic series about the Hebrides on BBC2, latest episode soon.
"Islands on the Edge"


Florence61 Report 25 Jul 2013 20:47

Yes solar charging is ok as are wind turbines, but not 100% reliable.

When my son was born in 1995, we had a disasterous winter with snow 2ft deep, gales and no power for 4 days!

There was no petrol available from our local shop as it couldnt operate with no generator!

The only comfort we had was a lovely coal fire with boiling water made in a teapot.

If we hadnt a landline then and only a mobile, life would have been difficult keeping in touch with family as we couldnt drive anywhere and the mobile would have been out of charge.

Sometimes i think its always best to stick with reliability, especially when you live in a remote area like i do.

The other week we had no water and on a sunday when shops here are closed, the operator at scottish water suggested i go to my supermarket and buy a dozen bottles as it wouldnt be fixed for at least 24 hrs. When I said well its a 60 mile trip and by the way, its sunday shops here are close, they seemed very amazed.

Anyway, we are all creatures of habit in some way and some of us older ones need a bit more convincing before we move over totally to modern technology!
In the hebrides

PS My sil has a generator, but unless we know its going to be off for a long time, not worth running out to the garage to start it up as once she did that and then by the time she went back indoors, the power was back on!! :-)


Elizabethofseasons Report 25 Jul 2013 20:40

Dear Florence61


Hope you are okay.

At our home, we have got a landline with an extension because if the mobile telephone network had to be shut down at least, you can still communicate with
loved ones.

As with so many things, the use of mobiles has got completely out of hand.

Its like people have them attached to their hands all the time.

I don't want to hear peoples medical or personal details!

I like having a tumble dryer, washing machine and fridge freezer because
I remember when we didn't have them and it was a struggle at times
so I am very grateful for them.

Take gentle care
Best wishes
Elizabeth, EOS


StrayKitten Report 25 Jul 2013 20:35

in the long run it would, but not short term, and as my mum lives opposite id be ok, ;-)


RolloTheRed Report 25 Jul 2013 20:00

It ain't necessarily so ...

though solar charging is possibly challenging in the Yukon winters.
Mush, mush.


SylviaInCanada Report 25 Jul 2013 19:48


won't a power cut affect the charging of your mobile???????


RolloTheRed Report 25 Jul 2013 19:47

When the power goes off ... there are such things as standby generators from £ 200 and up. Even the basic ones will easily power lights, computers and tv. Diesel is a lot safer than petrol.

High end can deliver 30 amps propane/diesel and be wired to cut in automatically. With propane and depending on territory they can be cheaper than mains electricity.

Otherwise here is a possibility


StrayKitten Report 25 Jul 2013 19:31

i have a landline but dont have a phone plugged in, my mobile if not in my hand is charging next to me, so ill be fine in a powercut,

failing that ill walk over the road and use mams landline :-D


Florence61 Report 25 Jul 2013 18:59

Well thankyou peeps for all the interesting comments, quite a wide variety.

i personally only use my mobile and have it switched on when i am away from the house, so in an emergency for school or family, i can be contacted. I only top up £5.oo per month.

I have a landline and wont get rid of it. far more reliable than anthing else and never needs charging.

We have 3 sockets in the house and 2 tel. One in bedroon, lounge and kitchen. so wherever i am in the house i can get to and hear the tel easily.

If the landline was going to be phased out, it would be a disaster up here where power cuts in winter are frequent. Mobiles forever have to be charged as well as cordless phones so not reliable at all.

In the hebrides


RolloTheRed Report 25 Jul 2013 11:36

Don't blame me POTS ( the telephony equivalent of analog TV ) is for the chop - the typical £ 14 / month paid in the UK for a phone connection on top of even Virgin fibre is to finance POTS.

It is not going to disappear overnight or in any big bang but will gradually fade away along with the POTS surcharge. Most people will not even realise it has gone.

Broadband over wifi is a far more cost effective way of rolling out phone/net connections than POTS copper especially in remote areas. Most of the journey for any voice call is now as a digitised signal anyway with only the "last mile" at most on analog copper. BT Operreach are busy getting that down to the last hundred meters or so.

Yes, lack of power could be a problem though as it is perfectly possible to power a connection from a solar panel not all that much.

A big chunk of my roots are in Rutland. Among the many things that make Rutland a wonderful place is the high speed broadband rolled out by the County Council. Rural areas can have as fast a link as they want if they get their digit out.


DazedConfused Report 25 Jul 2013 11:32

All my family and friends know that if they want to talk to me to use the landline. My mobile is switched off most of the time. It goes with me when I go out at 4.30 am to take OH to work in case of a breakdown, which has been the case. And again comes with me when I go out later in the afternoon to pick him up from the station (this time it is switched on in case of problems with trains/station).

Nearly every time I switch my phone on there will be a message, usually from Orange!!!

My mobile is my safety net, not a necessity. My landline is my first means of contact with the outside world.

And remember when buying online etc., many firms are very suspicious of mobile phone numbers and not landline numbers, for some reason most frauds are done via mobile phones and not landlines.

;-) ;-)

Oh and I forgot to add, I live on a hill in South London, our reception for mobile phones, tv etc., is awful, so it is not just those living in rural areas with this problem. And I can see at least one mobile phone transmitter from my bedroom window.


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 25 Jul 2013 10:57

As long as there is still a physical connection Rollo! Don't forget that there are still some parts of the UK who have slow internet connection via their phone lines and have had to pay themselves to run in fibre optics or something similar.

We both have basic pay-as-you-go mobiles costing about £20 top-up. It makes for amusing conversations when cold callers or sales people in the street say that they can reduce our mobile phone costs! Half the time the batteries are flat. The other half we don't realise that its one of our phones which are ringing!

In the house, we have 3 wireless telephone hand sets; the base unit is plug into the phone line.... and a cheap wired one we can plug in during a power cut.

Florence has raised an interesting point - the inlaws have a similar system to ours; we need to check that they have wired phone they can plug in if necessary