back to article The Death of Voice: Mobile phone calls now 50 per cent shorter

Vodafone reckons the average duration of phone calls on its network has halved in five years. People now talk for around one minute and forty seconds, rather than over three minutes. The figure was calculated from both business and consumer customer data in fifteen main Vodafone markets, the network's business services director …


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  1. Richard Jones 1

    Call Lenth vs Call Cost

    I did a lot of work on this in the 1970s, (not in the UK) automating the production of average call duration distribution data when calls were metered rather than computer recorded.

    My studies found that the more expensive the call the longer it lasted, this rule was across all call classes, even international.

    During down turns the pattern was even more marked and it became easier to see what happened.

    Un-metered calls (or calls that were part of a package) were a don't care element. If you wanted information you made a call, sometimes for a few seconds hung up and called again later.

    If times were tight, you made a list of items, then made a call, often towards the end of the day and asked all that you wanted to ask before getting the information and hanging up.

    Traffic was often crammed into a shorter period of time towards the end of the international overlap causing the busy period to be far busier and later than normal. It played hell with the economics of dimensioning back then so congestion often resulted. Perversely, when things improved, we had more paid time and less congestion as traffic was better spread out.

  2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Not only shorter...

    There could also be much less mobile phone calls. If only people would forgo all the preposterous talk they utter when among complete strangers...

    1. Stuart 22

      Re: Not only shorter...

      Well Vodafone should have made 0845 part of their inclusive minutes!

      They would have picked up the Infernal Revenue and other call centre 'on hold' business. The reason why many of us still maintain landlines ... apart from broadband. The good news is even they will be switching to 03 numbers this summer. Maybe in a decade or so non-business landlines will have gone the way of the telegram and the fax.

  3. JaitcH

    Haven't made a voice call in years

    With the rip-off voice charges Canadian cellco's sock you with, it's hardly surprising.

    I've now turned my voice call ringer and vibrator off so I can choose to answer SMS/text in my own time at my convenience. My cellco 'managed cell system', in VietNam, sends me a SMS message every time a voice call is not answered,

    I haven't even bothered to stick a SIM in my new Samsung Note 2 as there are so many free WiFi Hotspots in VietNam it makes cell service redundant.

  4. Esskay

    "Vodafone reckons the average duration of phone calls on its network has halved in five years"

    I think many people on Vodaphone would be happy to have a phone call last more than a minute...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Vodafone reckons the average duration of phone calls on its network has halved in five years"

      Indeed. Managing to hold a call for more than a minute without Vodafone dropping it seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days. And, no I don't really think it is a joke.

      One of my New Year resolutions this year to to tell them where to shove their service and move to another network - though i suspect none of the others can be arsed to offer decent levels of service either.

  5. Tom Melly

    Observing my children and their friends, calls are ridiculously short. They seem to treat speaking as an extension of texting, and employ the same brevity. It can be quite shocking for us old 'uns, as it often (from our perspective) comes across as incredibly rude - e.g.

    Daughter: Do you want to come round?

    Friend: No (end of call).

    1 min later

    Mother of friend: I'm sorry - X was so rude. She can't come round as we're just off to see her gran.

    Cue agreement from me and the wife, head-scratching from daughter...

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      I have observed the same thing with one of my colleagues., a 30 year old.

      I will be working with her and suddenly she will answer her cellphone and reply with something like "Ask the carpenter for a new quotation" and then immediately end the call.

      This can happen multiple times within a period of 10 minutes or so.

      There is no greetings or farewell just the answer to a question that was asked by whoever was on the other end.

      To me it appears extremely rude, but for her it is obviously just part of normal communication. It unnerves me....

      1. Great Bu


        How many carpentry quotes does she need in the space of 10 minutes ?

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: Carpenters

          "How many carpentry quotes does she need in the space of 10 minutes?"

          As many as it takes for the carpenter to provide one that's cheap enough!

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Basically the same.

        My nephews always laugh at me writing a text, because I always write in full sentences, no text-abbreviations, and I often go back and re-write something to make sure it is grammatically correct. I also always sign the text. They once showed me that they could convey the same information with a quarter of the characters, but I'm old-fashioned enough to think it is rude not to write properly. (Though I bet there is a grammar a spelling mistake in here somewhere!)

        1. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: Basically the same.

          Ditto. I'd rather send a text message as two or three messages and have it written in English (or my attempt at it) than use text speak. Some abbreviations I'll use - things that are in common use, like LOL, but not the horror that is text speak.

    2. Bert 1

      Not just the young-uns.

      I had a 10 second call from the better half this morning which went (in total)

      "It's OK, I've found it!".

      And we're both well over 40!

  6. P. Lee Silver badge

    Why use voice?

    I only use it when I need an answer right now. The ringing gets attention better than email.

    Telstra came up with a lovely wheeze recently. They've upped the initial call length from 30 secs to 60 secs so they can charge you twice as much if you only need to give a quick message.

    Did I mention that they put you straight to voicemail with zero rings if the person is on the phone? So you can't not pay if the person isn't available to speak to, plus they can then bill for picking up the message too.

  7. smudge Silver badge

    But what about the number of calls?

    My first thought was that the calls may be getting shorter, but more frequent.

    Which could fit in with the observations of a couple of other posters above. The phone is now being used to enable ongoing ad-hoc interactive conversation with someone at a distance, instead of the old-fashioned concept of "making a call to someone".

    So are there any stats on the number or frequency of calls?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    quite a lot of my calls are very short

    Because one of the people I talk to regularly rarely lets calls go to voicemail. This means that most of our calls end with the words "I need to take this call, bye"

  9. Keep Refrigerated


    What Vodafone doesn't tell you, is that it no longer includes time spent in the automated menu, or on hold, as part of the phone call.

  10. The Grump

    The death of Voice ?

    Not while I'm alive. I have never, ever sent a single text, and I never will. I don't even like to leave messages on answering machines. Email is as far as I go - otherwise I couldn't rant about the articles posted on this fine website. Don't even get me started on Ballmer and Win8.

  11. Captain DaFt

    People are more connected

    With everyone having cellphones, calls have evolved to be like talking to someone that's physically present, and the social amenities of traditional phone calls are dying off.

    You don't say things like,"Hello dear, how's everything? Could you please pass the salt? OK, thanks, talk to you later... take care now." at the dinner table, would you?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Much of what people are saying in these comments sounds like push-to-talk type conversations, rather than old-school conversations.

  13. techmind

    'Averages' tell you very little ... need a histogram

    In my world, the "average" duration of a call may well have halved in the past few years ... mostly because every other call is now some chancer from India trying to help me reclaim my PPI or chase insurance payouts for accidents I haven't had - and 4 times out of 5 it's a silent call anyway.

  14. Rambler88

    I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going.

    How many of the users just never have anything to say that takes more than 15 seconds?

    Me, I regularly conduct three-hour business interviews on the phone. Once again, no-one seems to be looking at what businesses do--or at what they need. Voice is dead, the PC is dead. And Lenovo's PC sales in China are soaring. China's where all the work is being outsourced to. Surely a coincidence.

  15. DougS Silver badge

    Does this stat include calls that aren't answered?

    A decade ago if I called someone I always left a voicemail message telling them why I was calling, or at least saying "hey its me, call me back". Now everyone assumes a missed call to be a "please call me back later" message so once you get someone's voicemail you just hang up. Those 2 second calls have to drag down the average quite a bit.

  16. k9gardner

    Texting vs talking

    I chuckle with regard to those who say they would rather use full English words and sentences in texts... I'm "old" too, but not a dinosaur! In the interest of time and progress and getting things crossed off so you can go on to the next thing, sometimes expediency is the key, not "correctness."

    On the phone calling front, though, I too have found my voice call time way down, for a number of reasons, including this very important one: call/sound quality has to be at an all time low. It is enormously frustrating to be on a call with such low fidelity that sibilants are lost, the voice sounds like it's going through a ring modulator, whole passages may as well be redacted, etc. It is not a joy to talk to someone - even my mother - when both of us are straining to make out what the other is saying.

    Compared to calling methods like Skype (pc-to-pc only), where it sounds like we're in the same room, the typical cell phone call is horrid. And it's no accident. The more compression they can apply, the more calls they can handle at once, keeping their costs down (though not necessarily the price for consumers!). Calls get dropped? Who cares. Call quality bad? Who cares. Apparently nobody.

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