Mobile phones gradually oust conventional phones in Japan

Mobile phones are gradually making land-line telephones a thing of the past in Japan.

For the first time, fixed-line telephones accounted for less than half of all calls made in a fiscal year, losing out to mobile units and Internet-based services, a government report said this week.

Calls placed from fixed-line phones at home, offices or public phones fell 6.4 percent to 59.6 billion, some 49.7 percent of the total calls made in Japan between April 2006 and the end of March 2007, the report said.

Mobile and Internet calls accounted for 50.3 percent. People also spoke longer on these calls, taking up 52.3 percent of total phone time, while the balance - 47.7 percent - was on regular phone lines.

Overall communications via mobile or Internet services is even greater when text messaging - wildly popular in Japan - is taken into account, said Keiichi Takenaka, of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

"We assume mobile phones will be the mainstream in the future," he said. "Look at how often people exchange messages on mobile phones rather than actually talking, because messages take just a click and cost less."

The preference for mobile and Internet service is playing out business-wise as well. Existing fixed-line phone accounts fell 5 percent to 55 million in fiscal 2006, compared with 117 million mobile phone subscriptions, an increase of 5.4 percent.

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