Public payphones to become extinct this year
In the case you need to urgently make a phone call but can’t because your mobile phone battery is flat, what will you do?
When was the last time you actually used a payphone in Spain? You know, those blue machines housed in a glass cabinet on the street somewhere or an obscure wall at the airport. Perhaps you don't remember the last time you saw one of them.
Those blue public telephones’ days are numbered now, which shouldn’t really come as any surprise. And their life is going to end at the end of this year. From then, they will become a relic of the past, of days before the mobile phone.
We could have really done away with these public telephones a lot sooner than now, but it has finally been agreed and made official by the CNMC (National Commission of Markets and Competition) that the deed will be done this year.
In actual fact, the CNMC has contacted the Department for Industry, Energy and Tourism and asked them to study whether it is really worth spending the money on maintaining them when only a minority of people are actually using them. It is expected that the Government will agree and it’ll be lights out and ‘adiós’ to the blue machines.
According to the research carried out before the CNMC submitted their proposal to the Government, 88% of those asked have never used a public payphone. This situates Spain at the European average.
Recently France decided to get shot of their payphones, and 18,000 phone boxes have been removed in the Czech Republic due to the lack of income generated from them.
In the UK, British Telecom has indicated that their public payphones have suffered an 80% drop in usage during the last five years, and they have even sold many of their legendary red phone boxes to people who wanted to put them in their gardens for decoration.
According to Spanish law, there must be one public telephone in existence for every 3,000 inhabitants for every municipality of 1,000 or more residents.
They should also be available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year in every municipality of less than 500 residents where their use is justifiable.
These phone boxes must be kept lit at night, contain a certain amount of privacy and be kept away from any loud noise. An electronic screen where users can see the number they have dialled, the minimum amount of credit required and the amount of money they have left must also be incorporated.
And all of the above costs money, which has to be paid by the three main operators in Spain: Telefónica de España, Telefónica Móviles, Vodaphone and Orange.
In 2013, the 25,820 surviving public payphones generated a cost of 1.2 million euro.
Naturally, with 50.7 million mobile phone lines in existence in Spain at the moment, it’s highly unlikely that many people will try to contact another from a payphone, which is why from the studies carried out, it is probable that the use of our public payphones will become extinct from the end of 2016.
In the case that someone urgently needs to make a phone call but can’t because their mobile phone battery is flat, for example, the majority of people would ask someone else to borrow theirs rather than resort to using a payphone (if there is one nearby).
Spain has considered the possibility of using the old phone boxes as points to charge up electric vehicles rather than get rid of them completely.