Why you still need a landline phone

September 17, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- It's 2008, and the landline phone should have been made obsolete by now. But thanks to wireless carriers like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and their ilk, cell phone service still isn't good enough or cheap enough to replace landline phones for most people

Nielsen reports today that more than 20 million U.S. households use cell phones only, and don't use a landline. The number is growing, and especially among lower-income families.

But that number represents just 17 percent of the total number of households in the country. Why on earth isn't the number 100% by now?

The reason: The wireless carriers.

I personally have a digital landline phone line. The reason I have it is that I make a lot of international calls, and it's cheaper than Skype. And Skype is far, far cheaper than international calls made on a cell phone.

Many cell phone users have correctly calculated that it's cheaper to have a landline phone than to make all calls by cell phone. The landline phone is seen by many as a way to drop down a notch or two in terms of the number of allowable minutes in the wireless plan.

Why do carriers accept this? They should figure out a way to make cell phone calls competitive. All they need to do is to make the additional minutes charge lower than the cost of using a landline phone.

Another reason is call quality. People don't have enough confidence in how they sound -- and the quality of what they hear -- via cell phones.

And, finally, people have decided that they can't rely on their cell phone carrier to always deliver service. So they hang on to their "obsolete" landlines.

Someday, landline phones won't exist in homes. That day should have been ten years ago. And it will happen only when carriers can match landline phones for price, quality and reliability.

Why do YOU still have a landline phone?