Telstra to allow payphones to take calls alongside price drops

Australians will soon be able to do an American movie stereotype and call a payphone.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
(Image: Telstra)

Telstra has changed the way its 15,500 payphones around Australia work, and for the first time will allow them to accept incoming calls. The cost to those using the payphone to receive the call is free, unless they are in jail.

The telco said the shift would help those communities where mobile phone usage has not taken off.

At the same time, Telstra announced it has dropped the cost of national calls, calls to mobiles, and international calls from payphones.

National calls will now cost a flat AU$0.50 fee, regardless of time used, in line with local calls. Calls to mobile phones have dropped from AU$0.50 per 35 seconds to AU$0.50 for 10 minutes. These two price drops will not apply to prisons or custodial institutions, Telstra said.

For international classed calls, calls to countries including the US, Singapore, India, China, Canada, Bangladesh, and South Korea will be AU$0.50 for 10 minutes, while AU$0.50 for 2 minutes will be charged on calls to nations including France, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

A third tier of AU$0.50 per 1 minute will exist for calls to countries such as Brazil, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Vatican City from payphones.

Outside of those three tiers, international calls will cost AU$0.50 per 15 seconds.

Calls that are connected via mobile satellite services will continue to range between AU$0.50 per 7.5 seconds to Optus Mobile satellites to AU$0.50 per 45 seconds to those connected via Iterra.

"Telstra provides over 15,500 public payphones across the country. Payphones across the country provide a vital civic utility, with 13 million calls made last year, 200,000 of which were emergency calls to '000'," Telstra media general manager Pete Manwaring said in a blogpost that lays out all the international fees.

"Despite the growth of mobile phone usage, payphones remain a critical piece of social and community infrastructure, serving some of our most vulnerable citizens in their times of need."

Telstra had previously said it was looking at updating its payphones to provide mobile phone charging, Wi-Fi access, and information and advertising display.

The telco said it had 34 of its new payphones installed in Melbourne.

"A concern has been raised about the size and location of our new payphones. We acknowledge there has been a small increase in size, mainly to accommodate the fibre connections and other equipment required in a modern smart city, all collocated within a considered design to minimise street clutter," Manwaring said at the time.

"The new payphone booths have also been designed to reduce pedestrian impact by adding height over width. The newly installed booths in Melbourne are only 15cm wider than the cabinets they replaced, which have been in use for over 35 years."

By May though, the City of Melbourne had commenced proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on the payphone upgrade, which Telstra decided to escalate to the Federal Court.

"Because we operate a national payphone network, we think the best path is to ask the Federal Court to decide whether our new payphones are a low impact facility, so we have one judgment that applies across Australia," Telstra General Counsel for Legal & Corporate Affairs Carmel Mulhern said in May.

"This will avoid the time and cost of court action in other states, and should mean a quicker, consistent outcome."

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