Half of all phone calls will be made on mobile phones by 2009, with mobile operators launching an "aggressive assault" on fixed voice services, according to a report from research firm Analysys.
The report's authors said operators will try to get customers to ditch fixed-line voice services altogether. But Graham Jacklin, managing director of telephony distributor VoIPstore, said he expects voice over IP (VoIP) to have a part in replacing fixed-line voice as well.
"Fixed-line revenues will be a thing of the past in the next few decades.
The question is whether we need fixed-line any more," Jacklin said. "And with VoIP coming through, the revenues for fixed-line are falling. I know of entire companies that use mobiles and VoIP instead of fixed-line."
Fixed lines will still be needed to support internet access, which will limit the decline in fixed voice channels to one per cent between 2004 and 2006, Analysys predicted.
However, it warned that this will not prevent what is likely to be a bitter battle for voice minutes between fixed and mobile operators.
Jacklin said that the fixed-minutes market has already seen stiff competition, which has "massively driven down the cost of a minute".
But the report, Road to Fixed-Mobile Substitution Starts with 3G, claimed mobile operators will need to address fundamental issues, such as tariffs, interconnect pricing, network quality, consumer apathy and internet access, to persuade consumers to ditch their fixed lines.
Third-generation (3G) technology will be a key enabler in this battle.
Mark Heath, co-author of the report, said: "The introduction of 3G potentially provides a network cost per minute one-fifth that of GSM. However, 3G roll-out must deliver the necessary wide-area and in-building coverage to support a fixed-substitution strategy."
But the analyst warned that many businesses and consumers will not consider giving up their fixed line unless there is an alternative means of internet access. Such an alternative could accelerate the decline in fixed voice channels to almost 10 per cent per year from 2006 to 2009.
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