Europeans switching to mobile phones, study shows

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Almost one in five European Union households has gone wireless, cutting off their landline cables to use a mobile telephone only, a study by the EU statistical office showed on Tuesday.

Eurostat said that last year 18 percent of households had mobile phone access only as subscriptions for wireless handsets soared to 95 per 100 habitants in 2005 from eight in 1996.

The data embraced all 27 EU countries except Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the bloc this year.

The study showed that the number of households relying only on a mobile telephone tended to be higher in EU newcomers from central and eastern Europe -- 42 percent in the Czech Republic, compared with 11 percent in Germany.

The ex-communist countries that joined the EU in 2004 tended to have landline infrastructure much less developed than in western Europe.

But in Finland, home of mobile giant Nokia NOK1V.HE, 47 percent of households had mobile phones and no fixed lines. Still, in Sweden, where rival Ericsson ERICb.ST is based, zero percent of households relied only on mobile telephony.

Fixed-telephone penetration increased to only 48 per 100 habitants in 2005 from 44 in 1996, the study said.

Luxembourg had the highest number of mobile subscriptions per 100 people -- 158, followed by Lithuania with 127 and Italy with 122.

Cypriots were the chattiest EU citizens on a mobile, talking an average 6 minutes a day per subscriber. The figure was the lowest in Poland, 1.3, and Germany, 1.6.

Reporting by Marcin Grajewski; editing by Dale Hudson