CASE. 80% of French households still have one: are our old landlines still useful?

While the smartphone has become the main communication tool, almost no one uses the telephone that has been in the living room for decades. Should we get rid of it anyway?

It’s still there, but almost no one remembers the last time it rang. It’s still there, but we can’t see it. Or more. The landline telephone is, in French homes, the part of the decor that we end up no longer noticing, its presence is so obvious.

But, in fact, what is it really used for? Should we still keep it? Marketed in France towards the end of the 19th century, it saw the first subscribers connected from 1879. Today, with the development of the smartphone, the history of landlines has completely changed. Explanations.

Deployed until the 1980s

“We continued to deploy landline telephones until the 1980s”recalls Pierre Sanavio, director of relations with local authorities in Hérault, at Orange. “Thanks to the Cable Plan, it was strongly deployed during this period. But, today, we are reaching the breaking point”he adds.

The breaking point is the decision taken by the government to eliminate the entire copper network by 2030, in favor of fiber. “Copper is this network that allowed the development of the landline telephone line”.

Indeed, recall the public authorities, “the copper network, which provides the ADSL service and supports analog telephone and remote monitoring services based on the historic RTC switched network, will be gradually closed by 2030”. What is RCT? “This is the technology called the switched telephone network. It is the traditional dial, round or button telephone, which was plugged into the socket fixed to the wall”deciphers Pierre Sanavio.

The announced end of the copper network

So, by 2030, dad’s old phone will disappear. Its planned end is dictated by the deployment of Very High Speed ​​networks, which are essentially based on optical fiber. “Optical fiber offers speeds greater than 100 Mbits/s and thus allows better services than copperwe indicate to Arcep, the telecoms regulatory authority. Teleworking, videoconferencing, e-education, online health and many other uses have increased bandwidth requirements tenfold.”

What consequences then for the landline telephone? “With the possibilities offered by fiber, vou find yourself faced with a service where ultimately your voice comes through your smartphone”, explains Jean-Luc Lemmens, president of Idate, the consulting firm expert in telecoms, founded in Montpellier in 1977. For him, “it’s the simplest tool as long as you have good coverage at home.”

In support, voice over wifi systems. “Your mobile phone used at home does not connect to the mobile network or antennas, which are far from home, but to your wifi terminal directly. Your calls go through your box, which ensures very good quality of service, to the extent that your wifi works much better at home than the mobile network. There will be a gradual migration of all voice services to your smartphone and all this will gradually lead to the disappearance of the good old landline.

And yet, the landline can still be used

This is the paradox of this evolution of technologies: while waiting for the end of the copper network, at the end of the decade, landlines can still provide many services. “The telephone network as we know it is self-powered. This means that if you have a power cut at home, you can always call on the analog line,” specifies Pierre Sanavio. Unlike the box which, “if it is not electrically powered, it falls.”

Another scenario of the interest of the analogue fixed line: distance. “If you live in the Hauts Cantons and ADSL does not offer a good speed, the signal is weakened and the voice can be degraded. We are very happy to have a landline”. Likewise, the landline telephone can prove useful when you have equipment such as remote assistance or an alarm. “There, even if the equipment has aged a little, I can’t do without it. We are therefore very happy to have the landline, to which they are connected.”

And then, as Jean-Luc Lemmens slips, “there are people, especially people of a certain age, who do not want fiber”. Result: they camp on their good old landline. “There are also many owners of second homes who, already having a landline, do not want fiber or even a mobile network in order to have peace of mind and get a break from everyday life,” adds Pierre Sanavio.