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Survey Foresees Cellphone Cutbacks

3/20/2009 03:20:00 PM Eastern

Washington — Most cellphone users will hold onto their phones during the recession, but many will shift to less-expensive cell plans, including prepaid service, according to a Opinion Research survey.

Other anticipated changes are cutting back such bells and whistles as Internet connectivity and texting, said the Opinion survey conducted for the New Millennium Research Council.

The council, which focuses on telecommunications and technology research, concluded that 19 percent of adults who don’t own a cellphone said they disconnected service within the past six months because of actual job loss, fear of job loss, the recession or other related financial concerns. That percentage represents about 8.74 million consumers.

A total of 39 percent of consumers with a contract-based cellphone, or 60.3 million people, are likely to cut back cellphone use if the economy gets worse over the next six months, according to the March telephone survey of 2,005 adults ages 18 and older.

Among contract-phone users who subscribe to extra non-voice services such as texting or Internet access, 8 percent say it is very likely that they’ll cut some extras if the economy gets worse in the next six months, and 21 percent said they were somewhat likely to do so.

Cutbacks, however, had already taken place at the time of the survey.

Among consumers with a contract-based cellphone and extra services, such as texting, about 15 percent — or about 15 million — said they cut back on such features during the previous six months because of actual job loss, fear of job loss, the recession or other financial concerns, the council said. Another 5 percent, or almost 5 million, thought about cutting back during the previous six months for the same reasons.

In other findings, the council concluded that:

  • Seventeen percent of consumers who have prepaid service said they had switched in the previous six months from a contract-based cellphone because of job or recession-related concerns. That percentage includes 23 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds with prepaid phones and 29 percent of African-Americans with prepaid phones.

  • 80 percent of adult Americans own a cellphone, up from a year-ago 79 percent. The percentage ranges from 84 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds to 68 percent of people who are 65 or older. A total of 91 percent of people in households earning $100,000 or more have cellphones, but only 65 percent of households earning $35,000 a year or less have cellphones.

  • Seventeen percent of adults using a cellphone currently have a prepaid cellphone, and 84 percent have a contract-based cellphone. Some of these people have both.

  • Among cellphone users, 35 percent say they use their cellphone more than their landline phone, and 32 percent say they use them equally as often. Another 32 percent primarily use their landline.