Telstra is dragging its public payphones into the 21st century

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Telstra is dragging its public payphones into the 21st century

Telstra has unveiled plans to bring its public payphones into the 21st century by offering more digital services.

The telco owns more than 16,000 payphones across the country, and despite the increasing use of mobile devices, there were 13 million calls made from payphones last year, 200,000 of which were Triple Zero calls.

Telstra has already started upgrading 1800 payphones in metropolitan areas, the first major redesign since 1983.

"It is envisaged that over time the new payphones will provide a number of additional services for the community, including mobile phone charging, wi-fi access, as well as providing a space for communicating everything from emergency alerts to a range of content services such as public transport information to city maps, weather, tourist advice, information on nearby cultural attractions and the ability to promote the work of charitable organisations," Telstra media general manager Pete Manwaring said in a blog post.

Telstra also hopes the new digital payphones will "help reduce the digital divide" for disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians by offering wi-fi connectivity and USB connectivity.

Telstra tapped outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux for the rollout, who worked on design and delivery, and has already been approved to use the digital payphones for commercial advertising in Melbourne.

So far, 34 digital payphones have been installed in Melbourne. Telstra acknowledged that there were concerns about the size of the new payphones, which are 15cm wider than the classic booths. Manwaring said the larger size was to accommodate for fibre connections and equipment, and that they would only be installed in non-pedestrian thoroughfares.

He added that more advanced digital payphones are expected to rollout in 2020.

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