Considerations For Going Cell Phone Only

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I mentioned that our family has been living with only a cell-phone for about half a year now. Here are some of the concerns that we had, and how we got over them.

Our Current Setup
We have two individual Sprint SERO plans that give us each 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights & weekends starting at 7pm, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile. All for $30/ month each + taxes. No overages at all. I just checked, and the plan looks still to be available using the e-mail address.

How much do you really need another line?
When we lost our VoIP service with SunRocket, we just tried to live without it, and realized it was fine. I even bought a MagicJack VoIP gadget for $40 to try it out, but stopped using it after only a week or so. We thought we might go over our 500 anytime minutes per month, but since my wife and I mostly call each other a lot, the free mobile-to-mobile works great.

Voice Quality and Comfort
I’m surprised by how many people’s cell phones don’t work in their own house. That would drive me crazy! I used to think cell phone calls were just too fuzzy to use all the time, but either I have gotten used to it or the quality is just better now. As for comfort and avoiding too much excess radiation from the phone, a wired headset is key. I got a wireless Bluetooth headset as a gift, but I always forgot to charge it and it kept falling off my ear.

Do you need a landline for DSL internet service?
This is a common concern because DSL is often cheaper than Cable internet, though sometimes a bit slower. First, I would check if you can get a naked DSL line that doesn’t require a dial tone – AT&T (formerly SBC or BellSouth) and Verizon are the big ones that I believe offer these now.

Second, you can ask to downgrade your service to the lowest possible level. Instead of having unlimited local calls like most people are used to ($28 here including taxes), there is usually a bare-bones tier where everything is per-minute. Here I found a $8 monthly rate with 100 free minutes but each additional minute was ~50 cents. With taxes it was $15. Now just compare the price of DSL + basic line vs. Cable. If the DSL is still cheaper, just get that and never use your phone line.

911 and emergencies?
As I see it, what you are missing with 911 from a landline is the automatic location feature, and the ability to function without power (assuming you have a corded phone). E911 is still growing, but just have to remember that one of the first things you should tell the operator is where you are located. Also, most cell phone towers have power backup systems.

International Calls
I make very few international calls, but most of my friends who do just use Skype. I suppose you could also use a calling card with a cell phone.

Instead of faxing, I’ve gotten really good at using my all-in-one printer as a scanner and making documents into Adobe PDFs. Then I just send it off through e-mail. If I do need to send a fax, there is which is pay-as-you-go at $0.12 a page with no monthly fees. For receiving a fax, there are several sites that let you have free incoming faxes like eFax Free. If you fax a lot or want a local or toll-free fax number, there are several online fax services that start at about $10 a month like RapidFax, which is still cheaper than a landline.

Home Security Systems
Many home security systems rely on a landline to send an alarm signal. But is this a good thing? If a burglar can simply cut your line to disable your entire system. See this article news reports and comments below for more details. In the end, paying for a wireless backup may be the best solution.

Now, I don’t think everyone should go out and drop their phone service, I just wanted to provide some food for thought.

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  1. Heh, avoiding too much radiation by putting a bluetooth headset in your ear… that’s funny. For a fun test, purchase a “microwave leak detector” some time. You’ll find that your cell phone and some bluetooth headsets leak much more than a microwave does!

  2. I think in some areas you can keep a lan phone hooked up for emergency service only. It’s either free, or very cheap. 911 calls aside, we recently discovered another ‘snag’ in being cell only… If your area has a reverse-911 program.. you won’t get the call. We’re in San Diego and actually missed a reverse-911 call telling us to evacuate. Fortunately our neighborhood was spared, but it had me a bit freaked out.

    Our area allows us to add our cell phones to the reverse 911 list, which we’ve since done. It’s worth looking into this if you’re planning to drop your Lan line. Frankly, I’m more and more annoyed by contacts in my phone that have a home and cell number listed. I don’t want to guess where you’re at 🙂

  3. We think about it all the time. We don’t answer our home phone and rarely receive calls on it. Sadly our alarm requires a home phone. 🙁 And our internet cable is discounted ten dollars a month for keeping a $17 a month home phone.

  4. One really important reason for keeping a land line is for home security monitoring. We have an alarm system monitored by ADT. It relies on a land line to phone home when the alarm goes off. Our alarm system was installed a few years ago, so its relatively new. I wonder if newer systems can leverage VOIP? If not, land lines are a must…

    If you don’t have a house alarm, then this isn’t a concern. But definitely consider it before you cancel your phone service.

  5. With all these triple-play deals (phone, internet and cable) being offered by Cable companies and now Verizon — it seems to be more cost effective to go that way — and then switch every two years to keep the promotional rate. Of course, I’m one of those people who can’t hear my cell phone in my house and if I move anywhere away from a window, the call is immediately dropped!

    I’ve had the Cable triple play for a little over a year and it’s fine (and the 411 is free – which is great), but it’s got some quirks like sometimes an echo when you are talking (very annoying). I feel like I’m being recorded! Now lately, when the phone rings, I get caller id on my TV (that’s really cool — but I didn’t set this up — it’s just started happening).

    I have a pre-paid phone (t-mobile). This works great for me, since I don’t really like talking on it much, I can keep 1000 minutes for like 6 months. It’s just for convenience calls (if I’m running late or need directions or something) — I talk to friends when I’m home and can hear them better.

    Anyway, I’m thinking about switching to FIOS now. I’ve seen it — and it really is SUPER fast, much better than cable. And of course, I imagine the phone service is better, since it is Verizon (but no more free 411, oh well).

  6. Anyone who used SunRocket then transferred to Teleblend? I did. And I did not receive any bill from Teleblend ever again. I log into my account and there is nowhere to show my bill or pay. My credit card does not get charged either. What happened? I could make even international phone calls without a problem. Anyone experiencing the same thing? I put this on fatwallet but received no answer.

  7. We’re there (or we have been). I lived on my cell phone for 2 years w/o a landline, my (now) fianc? lived off her cell phone. We have a landline, but now that we’re moving area codes, that’s likely to just die as well.

    Truth is, I figure that in about 7-8 years, phone numbers themselves will start dying. We’ll all just have some form of Skype built-in to our phones and to the networks and people will just access you by user.

  8. Ah, great tip on I’ve been looking for a limited use Internet fax service that doesn’t require monthly fees.

    I lived land-line free for several years, but when we bought our house we found that we had almost no cell coverage there. Now I pay for a cable package with everything and I sharply downgraded my cell phone plan to a pre-paid version that costs me less than $100/year. I think the key to savings is to not pay for both a robust cell plan AND a land-line. Pick the one you want the most and trim the other.

  9. I understood what the article was about, but thought I’d point out to you that you started by saying you have “been living without a cell-phone”, when what you mean is living without a landline.

    While I’m playing Mr. Corrector, in the next paragraph you have a typo where you and your wife can “all each other” rather than call.

  10. Danny Tsang says

    Awesome, I was just talking about this with my girlfriend yesterday about not getting a land line when we purchase a new house. I don’t think its necessary as we both have a cell phone, mobile to mobile, my faves etc. I’ve been land line free for about 2 years now.

    I don’t know if it helps, but I usually talk on my cell phone with the ear piece (non blue tooth) or speaker phone. I just don’t like the idea of having the phone right up to my ear by my head. It makes me feel better lol.

    My girlfriend’s concern was emergencies which we need a land line in case power goes out. But like you said towers usually have back ups. I think we’ll be a land line free household.

  11. One point you didn’t mention (because you’re not a homeowner yet) is your alarm system. You’ll probably want one, especially once you have a child, and they usually require a landline phone. Some companies might offer cell-service, but they are much more expensive.

  12. bananaboat says

    There is also a cheap way to have cellphone service for about $7 a month. Just go on ebay and buy T-mobile prepaid. For $7, u get about 150 min prepaid which usually expires after 1 month, sometimes 2. Just insert the sim into a unlocked gsm phone. Been doing this on and off as a spare cellphone for the wifey. Working great so far.

  13. I’ve been okay with just a cell phone for the past 6 years…it works especially well when you live with a bunch of roommates.

  14. I’ve never had my own landline and still don’t have one today. It has never been a problem. I do have the freedom of taking personal calls on my work phone though so I might have that slight perk…Verizon has great coverage where I live, there would be no point in paying for both. I also get a 22% discount through work which lets me get a great plan for 30/month, i’ve never ran out of minutes.

    Not to go off topic but buying a printer or fax machine in this day and age seems like a waste of money, time, etc…Can’t you print/fax/scan at your local library if you really need these services?

  15. I’ve been living without a landline since the middle of 1999. I love it. The only reason I can see to have a landline these days is for DSL, and it’s rarely cheaper anymore, because you don’t get the discount on the cable+internet plan.

    The triple play plans with VOIP phones are a nice deal, except that you’re never going to *get rid of* your cell phones, so you’re really just paying for a third phone line no matter how cheap it is. Why bother?

  16. I have been mobile-only since 2003, and it has never been a problem. I keep a charger in my car, at my office, and at home.

    My fiance gave up his land line two years ago, and we have no intentions of ever getting a land line for our home. It’s cheaper and it keeps telemarketers away.

  17. I’m not trying to be negative here, but having a security system which depends on a landline doesn’t seem like a great idea. What happens if a burglar just cuts your phone line?

    From the ADT website:

    If the line is cut at the outside junction box, the ADT monitoring center would know within 24 hours that the system is disabled.

    24 hours?!?

  18. From another ADT installer:

    What happens if my phone line is cut?

    All traditional security systems send signals via a ?land-line? phone line. If the line is cut then obviously no signal can be sent, but to put your mind at ease the incidence of phone lines being cut in the average residential burglary is very, very rare. This is not to say that it never happens but it is more likely in the burglary of a business than a home. If it is a concern for you however, we can install an Alarmnet cell back-up unit.

    In the end, it’s cell phone technology to the rescue again 🙂

  19. The Triple Play deals around here are about $100 for internet+phone+cable TV. But cable + TV is already about $70 under the same deal, so that’s $30 just for phone – albeit unlimited phone.

  20. “911 and emergencies?”

    Cell phones in the States are now required by law to have a GPS feature in them so emergency crews can locate you (or at least your phone). Many older phones, such as prepaid phones, are being phased out if they do not have this technology.

  21. link got messed up…. D:

    Fixed Mobile Convergence


  22. Homeowners Discover Loophole In Home Security Systems

    Article on Bluetooth headset radiation

    “Bluetooth radios operate at much lower power levels than phones so, not surprisingly, the radiation added by a Bluetooth headset is insignificant by comparison…

    So, if you’re worried about the health impact of radio waves, remember that the phone itself is a much greater source of concern than a Bluetooth headset. That’s especially true because, when you’re using Bluetooth, the BlackBerry is likely positioned much farther from your body — and especially your brain — than when holding the phone up to your ear. “

  23. Never thought about the cut phone line, although it’s rare. My phone box is about waist high and mounted to the side of the house. The alarm installer installed the additional phone line from the box along the side of the house in plain sight. Hmmm…

  24. As with others on here, when I moved out I never bothered to be tethered to a land line (7 years now) and I don’t ever remember a time when I wished I had a land line.

    If the phone quality is low at your house or you make a lot of calls at your house there is always hotspot @ home by TMobile. No idea how good it is, but its an option.

  25. I’ve heard about the emergency 911 service. I would consider it. I am not sure exactly where in Cali you are but I have never been able to get hold of 9-1-1 on a cell phone without sitting on hold for a significant amount of time (15 minutes plus). It’s the one reason we keep our land line.

    {I haven’t heard if land line is any better these days, admittedly, as the reasons I have called 9-1-1 were to report road accidents/emergencies when obviously everyone and their brother called. But I have seem similar concerns on other discussions that 911 is useless on a cell in Northern Cali. I haven’t seen the same complaints about land lines}.

  26. @Mimi,

    For free 411 try 800 (OR 888) GOOG-411

    Googles FREE 411 service powered by Google.. It’s not Bad and the price is RIGHT!


  27. I went cell-phone-only for 6 months, but found that being able to maintain a certain level of privacy was worth paying for a bare-bones land line. There are so many times when I have to give out my phone number–the cable company, credit card companies, for appointment reminders from the doctor’s office, etc–and I don’t want to receive those calls on my cell phone. And I really don’t want some unscrupulous company to start making marketing calls to my cell phone. So I keep the land line hooked up to an answering machine and screen my calls.

  28. Mark @ TheLocoMono says

    I bet I can do you one better.

    I don’t even have a voice plan on my Blackberry. (Of course I have to admit, I am deaf so a voice plan is useless).

    I didn’t know about the options I can get regarding DSL if I need a land line. Very interesting, I will have to look into this.

  29. Jonathan, why didn’t you like the MagicJack? I was thinking of trying it.

  30. Jonathan, I assume that your broadband service is not from a telephone company like AT&T. Otherwise, the landline may still be needed. As to emergencies like power outage in the house, my experience is that landline is more reliable than cell phone services. In the past summer, we experienced a power outage due to weather. I could only make phone calls through my landline phone service. My cell phone service was too busy to get me through – this led me to thinking about what happened on 9/11/2001 in NYC when too many people were trying to make phone calls at the same time.

  31. I had lived without landline for a few years back and had no problem. Now I am using Vonage and happy with it. Ironically, the reason I signed up for Vonage was Cell phone companies require landline number for new cell phone sign up.
    You can send a fax via Vonage line just like regular landline. I also like voice message email feature. I set up a forwarding email account and let Vonage send voice messages to that account, and the messages get forwarded to both my and my wife’s email accounts. Very convenient.

    To receive a fax, I’m using MessageOne by Onesuite. It sends a received fax to my email box. The local number is provided and it costs only $1 a month.

  32. “I wonder if newer systems can leverage VOIP?” If you have cable, the answer is a resounding yes. Here is what you do:

    1) Disconnect your house from the phone companies lines (this is done at the box outside your house). You want to do this since they can send a burst of electricity over the lines (accidentally obviously), and that could fry your VOIP system since it will be connected to your house line.

    2) Connect the lines in your house to the VOIP modem. This is as simple as running the phone cable from your VOIP modem into the phone jack in the room. This will create a circuit where all jacks in the house are now actively using the VOIP connection.

    Since all lines in the house are now using the VOIP connection, your alarm will be too. And to the alarm, there is no difference between a VOIP dial tone and land line dial tone, as it can still occasionally phone home as normal.

    Of course if your cable is out, or power is out, you have no phone, so your alarm can’t report anything to the monitoring agency during this time.

    My wife and I did that at our old house for a few years until we moved. I’m even contemplating doing it again in our new house (of course I need to get all of the phone jacks working for that to happen, but that’s another story about a crummy builder)

  33. My biggest (perhaps only) concern as I consider going VOIP only is calling 911. I’ve got two small kids and for some reason I just feel warmer and fuzzier knowing that I’ve got a copper phone line attached to my home–just in case. When I call 911 over my copper line, it goes right to the local emergency call center. My understanding is that with the e911 service Vonage and others offer, the call goes to a third-party call center. An agent there then calls my local emergency center. I suppose I prefer one fewer link in the chain. Perhaps I’m just paranoid…

  34. Tom Miller says

    I have been land line free for about 5 months now. It allows me to save $30 bucks a month. My wife and I have 3 cell phones. I had my land line ported over to a cell phone, and leave this phone at home all the time paired to a device called the XLink Intellitouch Bluetooth Cell Phone docking station. This is a great device as it allows you to pair up to 3 bluetooth cell phones (we use all three lines), then plug the phone line into either a corded/cordeless phone system. I have it in a location in my house that has the best cell signal, then I disconnected my outside phone wires from the box, and plug this into the phone jack. This then activates all phones in my house, and I can use any standard phone with my cell phones. Works great!

    Here is a link to the product . . .

    As far as TMobile Hotspot, my uncle used to work for them, and recently retired, and says it does not work that well yet. The phones have trouble switching over to your wifi network if you have stong cell signal at your home. May not be the best option yet.

    What did you do with your Magic Jack? I am looking to purchase one. Interested in selling yours? I plan on using it with my Grand Central number.

  35. Sero does have an overage charge and a whacking huge one it is too – we were billed about $85 extra for going over our 500 minutes in one month.
    We got a Vonage, US only plan for $15/month for our phone line as this is cheaper than the normal phone line. When we went cell phone only for a while we got stung by the fact that you also get charged to receive calls on your cell phone – something that doesn’t happen in the UK where we used to live – so after the first shocking bill, we went back to vonage’s 500 mins per month plan for most of our calls during the day. Fortunately our friends are also on vonage, so these calls are free too.

  36. Great idea, I completely advocate getting rid of the landline phone if you have a cell phone. Two potential issues:

    1. You might have trouble getting some services. I tried to get a credit card at Banana Republic but they declined me because they could not verify my home phone number (because I don’t have one!) My credit rating is 760+, so it’s not that I’m a risk.

    2. If you want DSL service you may need to get landline phone service. While AT&T doesn’t require the landline service, they price it such that the bundle of DSL+landline phone is much cheaper than DSL alone (you have to call a totally different department to get DSL alone, and when I called them they sounded like they didn’t ever actually sell this product, just told people high prices, and that scares people into getting the DSL+landline phone bundle). I’m sure that they do this because once you have a landline you will probably keep it forever, will occasionally make long-distance calls on it, etc.

    Since installing a DSL line is the same as putting in a landline phone, they would rather have you buying the landline phone service too as it provides them with another potential revenue stream (oh, wouldn’t you like long distance service too, voicemail, call waiting, caller ID . . .).

  37. Check out if you want an alarm without using without the need of a LAN line or Internet connection. I found them and have been using them for the past six months when I decided to go strictly mobile. They come out and setup a system that notifies of an alarm through the mobile network, so there is no risk to your alarm when someone cuts your phone or cable line. And the best thing about the alarm being hooked up mobile is that you can access your control panel at home from any internet connection. From work, I can set my alarm, set notifications and even setup or change control pad passwords. I can’t figure out why anyone would choose ADT over this type of package.

  38. My wife and I have never had a land line (we’re 25). We’ve both been cell phone only since going to college.

    For those of you who don’t like giving out your cell number to businesses, etc. Try Grand Central ( You can get a free phone number that you can use as either internet voicemail or a forwarding number. I love it. I have it setup as voicemail. If anyone calls it they can leave a message and it gets emailed to me.

    It was just bought by Google a few months back and I think they closed registrations but you can still reserve a number for when they open back up.

  39. I have the SERO too. It works great and I have more minutes than I can use. Call them and ask for free 6pm too.

  40. I have gone cell phone only recently and have been saving a lot of money. There can be a little bit of a hassle at times, but the cost savings has been worth it for me.

  41. I am 26, I have had a cell phone since I was 16. I have the same number, and have never had or had any desire to pay for a landline.

    Even a triple play or a VOIP is too much to pay. Especially, now that T-Mobile has the t-mobile at home service–you can literally connect seamlessly on your home wifi and use your cell phone, even if you don’t have great service!

  42. I have been cell phone only for almost 7 years and is loving it. The only draw back I can think of is “tele-communicating” calls. And I hate it. But I do tell them that they are calling my cell phone and is wasting my minutes (I am NOT happy) and I need to hang up immediately.

  43. I have been cellphone only for nearly 10 years now. Honestly, I don’t want a land line, I don’t like them, and I all but refuse to use them at work. Just cut the line and be done with it.

  44. I think having a cell phone INSTEAD of a landline is a good idea, but not always the best. Sometimes it plays against you.

    This past week, we were hit with a storm that cut power for 5 days as it knocked down something like 20 poles on our street and ended up cutting power to something like 45000 customers. Initially the cell phone was the ONLY thing that worked, albeit that we did get lots of “Call Failed” and “All Circuits are busy” signals even though signal strength was excellent. The neighbors initially had no landline phone service, but it was restored in a day. I was stuck with the intermittent ability to make a call the whole week. Being that there was no power, no TV, no internet and no water, there was little else for people to do but to talk on their cell phones I guess. It was a nice chance to ‘get back to family life’ though, since the kids and I played more games together than we have in years.

  45. I’d like to drop out land-lines, but haven’t seen an answer to my issues:

    1) My wife and I each have a cell phone. Which number do we use as our “home” number? Is there a way to get both to ring?

    2) We have a big house with extensions all over the place, hooked to a small PBX so we can call room-to-room. Is there a way to tie into this? We don’t want to carry the cell phones around with us all the time.

    My daughter is cell-only, but she lives alone and has a small apartment. Is there anyone with a family and a big house who’s switched? How did you do it?


  46. Hmmm…a $15 per month land line or a $30 per month cell? A strange choice, considering this is a financial blog. Yes, many will say, “but I NEED a cell phone!” and have lots of reasons for it. Those people are lying.

  47. I tried this for almost 3 years, and found that it wasn’t worth the savings.

    My cell phone is my personal phone. I pay $15 a month for a VoIP line that I use for business and as my “home” phone. Since I use it for business, I deduct it. I can use it for faxing out, etc.

    For me, the cost per month for a VoIP line was not worth the inconvenience of having to do everything over my cell phone. For example, I don’t want clients calling me while I am driving, etc. Yes, I could just let it go to voicemail, but then what would be the point of giving them my cell phone number in the first place? I also don’t want clients that operate 24/7 (I’m a network engineer) calling my cell phone (or any phone) at 3 AM because something is broken. Those that might need me at 3AM sign a contract to that effect and one of the terms is to provide a phone or pager for contact purposes.

    Maybe I am old skool, but I like keeping my work and play lives separate and keeping my cell phone as my own personal phone without having to worry about clients calling it, etc.

  48. I would like you to show me where you can get a $15 phone line in Hawaii.

    As for people lying, haven’t you ever heard of a company requiring you to have a cell phone as part of your job? Sure, some companies actually provide the phone, others expect you to have it based on your current compensation. I suppose the next time you have an urgent need for your doctor, you can wait till he comes home and checks his voicemail? Or for my situation, the next time the network goes down and your employees are sitting doing nothing, you can continue to pay them until I get home too?

    David, check with your PBX supplier as many have adapters allowing you to plug in certain cell phones for emergency backup service. I have even seen one consumer oriented device that allows you to use a cell phone as a ‘landline’ for remote locations. Both of these that I have seen rely on GSM phones.

  49. I just got a new cell phone, and T-Mobile let me keep the old one. When I turn it on, it says “insert SIM card”. Of course, the phone does not work, but it DOES allow 911 calls! “emergency only” mode. I will leave this phone fully charged in my car in case i ever need it…. plus, if my other phone dies, or is broken,i could just put a working sim into it and have a working phone

  50. Be aware that even if you take the battery out of that phone, rechargable batteries lose power over time. So, you will have to charge it once every couple months to keep that battery ready to go when you need to call 911. Keeping the spare phone is a good idea for situations like accidentally running your phone through the washing machine when you are in a hurry and the kids are pestering you. (Yes, I have done that.) Sims survive the wash much better than the rest of the phone.

  51. David:

    Look at xlink:

    It will connect with up to 3 cell phones via bluetooth, and connect up with your PBX just like another phone line.

  52. casualsurfer says

    Cell Fusion is the answer


    Connects 2 cell phones and allows you to make/receive cell calls using the Cell Fusion handsets (expandable to 7 total handsets).

  53. Like another commenter, I also used while I lived in my house. Aside from not needing a land line, their website was pretty cool as it allowed me to see sensor activity and turn on/off the alarm.

    By the way, I also got bit by sunrocket, so I signed up with for a pay as you go outgoing only service. I think it comes to about one cent a minute. As a test, I treated the service as if it were unlimited, not worrying about skimping on usage. I’ve spent about six bucks in the last six months. So it turns out that paying a higher fee for unlimited service had not been worth it at all for me, even as cheap as sunrocket was. 🙂

  54. Oh, and I forgot: the sunrocket gizmo I had worked with vitelity’s service.

  55. I would LOVE for someone to show me where you can get a phone line for $15 a month. Our local (one and only) phone service is over $25 per month for basic – add caller ID and voice mail and the need for 2 lines (home business) and our basic phone bill is $90 per month for 2 lines. On top of that – we are in an area where there is no Vonage or Comcast voice, even though we live 90 minutes from Philly.
    We make almost no long distance – I use my cell for that. We feel we need the cells to keep track of our teens, call family that are out of town and reach each other when one of us travels. So we are considering cutting the land lines. Aside from the alarm concern and the 911 issue – has anyone had any other problems with this?

  56. am I wrong in assuming that a landline will still call 911 whether you pay the phone company or not? I mean, the government hands out cell phones for free in Tennessee to the “needy”, youd think they offer 911 service for free to those of us who are “needy” to get bellsouth out of our house.

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