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Landlines, It Turns Out, Aren't Vanishing Everywhere

A Cambodian gambler talks on 18 cellphones at once at a boxing match in Phnom Penh in 2010. There are nearly 132 cellphones for every 100 Cambodians, but the country has also seen a surge in the number of landlines. i i

A Cambodian gambler talks on 18 cellphones at once at a boxing match in Phnom Penh in 2010. There are nearly 132 cellphones for every 100 Cambodians, but the country has also seen a surge in the number of landlines. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images
A Cambodian gambler talks on 18 cellphones at once at a boxing match in Phnom Penh in 2010. There are nearly 132 cellphones for every 100 Cambodians, but the country has also seen a surge in the number of landlines.

A Cambodian gambler talks on 18 cellphones at once at a boxing match in Phnom Penh in 2010. There are nearly 132 cellphones for every 100 Cambodians, but the country has also seen a surge in the number of landlines.

Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images
The South Pacific island nation has only about 100,000 people. Landline and cellphone penetration has been low, but the growth is impressive.
NPR

On All Things Considered, NPR's Martin Kaste reported Monday on U.S. landline infrastructure. One fact stood out: 96 percent of homes had landlines in 1998, and that number is down to 71 percent today.

The number of landlines grew in Cameroon from 2008 to 2012, but the number of cellphones skyrocketed — as it did in much of Africa.
NPR

The fact that landline phones are vanishing in some countries isn't new. We've covered that story — along with the concomitant rise in cellphone use. So we decided instead to look at those places where landlines are still growing, at least for now. (The numbers come from the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union.)

Surprisingly, about two dozen countries made the list, including such places as Brazil. But we narrowed the list to three countries where landline growth was highest: Cambodia, Cameroon and Kiribati.

For each of the three countries, we looked at two sets of numbers: the total number of landlines and the number of landlines per 100 inhabitants. We also looked at those numbers for cellphones.

Here's what we found:

Kiribati

The number of landlines in Cambodia grew more than 1,000 percent in the period shown. There were far more cellphones, but the growth was relatively lower: 350 percent.
NPR

The tiny South Pacific island nation has only about 100,000 people, and its telecommunication infrastructure has been relatively slow to develop.

In 2008, Kiribati had 4,000 landline phones (4.14 per 100 people), a number that grew to 9,000 by 2012 (8.77 per 100 people). The growth in cellphones was as impressive: 1,000 in 2008 (1.04); 16,000 in 2012 (15.59).

Cameroon

The numbers in Cameroon mirror much of what has happened across much of Africa: Citizens leapfrogging landline technology, which hadn't made it into their homes, to adopt cellphones.

As the accompanying graph shows, the number of landlines per 100 inhabitants grew in Cameroon (1.36 per 100 people to 3.6), but the number of cellphones skyrocketed (32.84 to 64.04).

Across the continent, the number of cellphones went from 32.4 per 100 people in 2008 to nearly 60 in 2012.

Cambodia

The numbers here were the most interesting.

In 2008, Cambodia had 43,100 landlines (0.31 per 100 residents). By 2012, that number had risen to 584,475 (4.04). The number of cellphones in the same period grew from 4.2 million (30.65) to 19.1 million (131.96).

Whether those numbers for landlines will hold is another story.

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