Update: As of August 2021, we’ve made payphone calls free all around Australia. Find out more here.

Telstra provides over 16,000 public payphones across the country to serve the needs of all Australians. Payphones in Australian regional and metro areas provide a vital civic utility, with 13 million calls made last year, 200,000 of which were emergency calls to ‘000’.

With payphone technology evolving, and Australians using mobile devices more than ever before, we recently began a payphone upgrade project across Australian metropolitan areas to enhance the services that can be accessed from around 1,800 of our payphones.

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.

In addition to the phone and text capabilities, the digital payphones will help reduce the digital divide by enabling the disadvantaged and vulnerable to remain connected to loved ones and essential services via Wi-Fi and USB charging.

Telstra has partnered with JCDecaux on this upgrade programme. JCDecaux has worked closely with us on the design and delivery of the new payphone booths and in addition to the information outlined above the screens on the booths may be used to display commercial advertising. In order to display commercial advertising on street furniture, JCDecaux follows the required council planning approvals process, separate to Telstra’s rights to install the payphone booth under relevant legislation.

In Melbourne we have already installed 34 new payphones, the design of which we altered after consultation with the City of Melbourne. JCDecaux also received the relevant planning approvals from the City of Melbourne for commercial advertising. A more advanced payphone booth is due to be rolled out in 2020.

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.

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. In most cases the new payphones will be installed in non-pedestrian thoroughfares and within the lines of other existing street furniture like seats, trees and bins, and motorbike parking to reduce pedestrian impact.

This is the first major redesign of the payphone booth since 1983, and we believe the small increase in size and new design will result in minimal impact on the streetscape, with the additional services the phones will offer bringing real benefits to the community and passers-by.

We will continue to engage and work with all stakeholders, including local governments and other associations on this project.