I was reading a press release from Embarq announcing the launch of their text-to-landline service, which allows wireless SMS text messaging to be received and replied to from a landline phone, and it made me wonder about the life expectancy of traditional voice land lines. If you listen to some analysts, landlines are “dead lines walking,” meaning it’s just a matter of time before they become irrelevant. The argument is wireless and VoIP services will render traditional landlines useless. Of course, these predictions of total demise are rarely accurate. Landlines aren’t in any danger of becoming totally obsolete, but their relevance in everyday life is certainly diminishing.
The promise of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) applications increase not only the likelihood of the long term survival of the landline, but may even reverse the trend of irrelevancy. The ability to “borrow” some of the experience of mobile applications and apply them to landline phones should be the goal of landline carriers. This latest Embarq announcement is a great example of that. There are numbers of others, including find/follow me services, simultaneous ring, and wireless to wireline hand offs. We can’t predict whether this latest SMS text service application will be successful, but I do applaud Embarq for trying. They have made a series of FMC announcements this year, which says to me they are not conceding their core business to any competitor. There are a variety of applications available (or coming to market soon) that will add value to the landline experience, including web self care portals, unified messaging, and aforementioned FMC applications. The future reality is that landline carriers will have to adapt. They will have to find ways to make landline phones more valuable. Otherwise, they will fall victim to the competitive reality of today’s evolving marketplace.