Data InsightsMany countries are “leapfrogging” landlines and going straight to mobile phones
June 06, 2024Hannah Ritchie

Many countries are “leapfrogging” landlines and going straight to mobile phones

Line chart showing the adoption of landlines and mobile phones across countries.

The concept of “leapfrogging” is popular in development. It suggests that lower-income countries can, as they develop, skip intermediate technologies or systems to go straight to the modern equivalent.

One example of this is the use of landlines and mobile phones.

The landline telephone was invented in 1876 and became a dominant form of communication across Europe and North America. As you can see in the chart, it was increasingly adopted in the United States and the United Kingdom throughout the 20th century.

However, mobile phone adoption increased rapidly in the 1990s, and landlines have declined since the millennium. Mobile phones have become a substitute for landlines.

Many countries, however, have almost skipped the adoption of landlines entirely. India, Ghana, and Nigeria are good examples: landline subscriptions have remained extremely low, and instead, mobile phone adoption has exploded.

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