A Deflationary Diamonique Circle reader highlights a WSJ article (behind walls of steel, but discussed at Textually), citing slower-than-expected PSTN abandonment in the US. As the French and Dutch EU Constitutional referenda demonstrated this week, it's difficult currently to know what's happening in Europe, and why. However, the EU and IPSOS last year produced an interesting set of telecoms indicators for the EU 15, which showed that 18% of homes had no fixed line connection, up from 15% in 2003, and 15% of homes had only mobile service, up from 12% in 2003. The actual figures varied wildly between member states, and between regions within countries.
Here's a map of households with no PSTN line by region, and also mobile-only households (be aware the the color scheme for the legend is reversed). What's interesting to note is the apparent level of PSTN displacement in places where cable is very strong (Austria [30%] and Belgium [29%], but not obviously the Netherlands), but also in places where PSTN services may be perceived as not economically attractive/readily available (rural Portugal, Sardinia, rural Ireland). Also of interest is the small red dot near the center of the fixed line map, which is Brussels, also home to a very high level of mobile-only households.
The factors behind the changes are complex, and the data throws up some interesting questions involving the right combination of pricing, competition levels, technological evolution, and demographics, which make one country a big dumper of the PSTN, and another less aggressive. The authors of the study did attempt to look at motivating factors for PSTN abandonment, and found that 47% of respondents said the presence of at least one mobile phone in the house made the fixed line redundant. This response was up from 41% in 2003. Second came cost of service, which 23% cited as their primary reason, up from 20% in 2003. The largest percentages of people giving this response (and also the countries showing the largest YoY increases in this response) were in Portugal, France and the UK.
It's difficult to make too much of this data, though the overall direction is clear. I sincerely hope that the EU is working on an update of this to reflect the more current situation, and perhaps to include some stats on IM, VoIP and Skype usage.
UPDATE: Later this came out from Ipsos, the same people who carried out the EU study - VoIP awareness has skyrocketed in the US. Come on guys, don't be stingy with the European data. Everything I see around me tells me Europe's at least on a par, if not ahead, and a Linksys commercial I saw last night in the UK drove the point home, explicitly referring to "making internet phone calls" from a comfy armchair. I must need glasses - I'd swear the press release said there are 11,000 VoIP service providers in the US...