BT to announce Marconi smart payphone deal

BT is planning an announcement this week that should see 30,000 public phone boxes dragged into the 21st Century

BT is set to announce that it is teaming up with Marconi to roll out tens of thousands of high-tech payphones across the UK.

Sunday's Sunday Telegraph predicted that some 30,000 BT call boxes will be converted to "e-payphones", capable of surfing the Web and sending emails, over the next three years. Marconi is expected to pay the bill for installing the new equipment, in return for a share of the revenue -- which could reach £50m a year by 2005.

Commenting on the reports, a BT spokesperson refused to confirm the accuracy of the story, but admitted that an announcement "involving Marconi will be made fairly imminently", probably this Wednesday.

The spokesman added that the rise in popularity in mobile phones had impacted on the company's payphone business. "Increased competition with mobile phones forces us to find new and innovative ways to increase business in the payphone market," he said.

At the start of this year BT announced that it was developing a multimedia kiosk. Six hundred Multi.phones -- each linked to the Internet-- were installed at shopping centres, rail stations and airports across the UK.

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