Telecom New Zealand plans to remove about 400 payphones this year as part of a move to modernise the payphone network and respond to the increased use of mobiles by New Zealanders.
The first payphone in Telecom’s network was installed at the Wellington Railway Station in 1910.
Telecom currently has about 5000 payphones across the country. While the number of payphones has not changed significantly in the past few years, call volumes from payphones have dropped by just on 24% in the last three years alone. Some payphones are not used more than a handful of times a year.
National Payphones Manager Sheridan Broadbent said changing social trends and predominantly the rise in popularity of mobiles has meant that payphones are not being used as much as they used to be.
“There was a time when payphones were one of the only ways that New Zealanders could access the telephone when they were away from home or the office.
“Today, there are nearly as many mobile phones in New Zealand (3.8 million) as there are people and the number of New Zealanders using payphones has dropped off significantly.”
“Many tourists, traditionally big users of payphones, are now bringing mobiles with them on their holidays and this has also caused a drop in payphone usage.”
Other communications alternatives such as text messaging, email and instant messaging, have also contributed to a reduction in payphone usage, Ms Broadbent said.
“At many sites there are duplicate payphones, a legacy from the days when there where separate card and coin phones – and so it also makes sense to remove these.”
“With New Zealand mobile penetration now reaching 90%, we can expect that this trend will continue, meaning it will be likely that some further sites will also come up for review in future years,” she added.
However, Telecom is committed to providing a national payphone service, Ms Broadbent said.
“Payphones will always have a place in New Zealand and, as they have in the past, they will continue to be upgraded to meet the changing needs of consumers over time. In the future many sites will double as Telecom wireless hotspots for broadband Internet access. We are also planning to install more Internet Kiosks.”