Telstra News |

Why we’re making payphones free for calls around Australia

By Andrew Penn August 3, 2021

I wanted to share the news that local and national calls to standard fixed line numbers and calls to standard Australian mobiles on Telstra’s public payphones are now free.

This means any Australian can now use all of our 15,000 payphones on street corners and in the tiny towns, truck stops and airports in every corner of the country to make calls for free.

It’s an important moment, and I wanted to explain why we’ve done it.

Payphones have been part of Australia’s landscape since they were first used in the 1880’s and at one point – just before the arrival of mobiles – there were more than double the number that we have today.

Since mobiles became nearly universal, a lot of Australians might not give them much thought. Until there’s a natural disaster. Until you’re in vulnerable circumstances, homeless or fleeing domestic violence.

That’s why I decided it’s time to make payphones free. Because even in the age of the smartphone they play such a critical role in our community, particularly in times of need, and particularly for those in need.

I’ve seen myself how much payphones are part of the fabric of Australia and how important they are in good times, and bad. I’ve seen queues of people waiting in line, coins at the ready, to use a payphone to call home and tell their family and friends they’re safe after a bushfire, a cyclone or some other natural disaster has taken the mobile network down.

I know payphones are also a lifeline for thousands of vulnerable Australians – the homeless, the isolated, those escaping domestic violence – and often provide their only link to critical support services and those that care about them.

Last year alone Australians made 11 million calls on payphones, including more than 230,000 calls to vital services like Triple Zero, so there’s no doubt payphones are already often the lifeline that’s there when it’s needed most.

Telstra’s purpose is to build a connected future so everyone can thrive. To deliver on this ambition we want to contribute to a better, more caring and more inclusive Australia, an Australia where people can reach out for help if and when they need to, or just connect if they feel like it.

The payphone network that we’ve been maintaining since the 1880s is a key part of that, and I’m delighted it’s now free for everyone to make calls anywhere in Australia.



Telstra News |

Payphones and Telstra Air are free again this Christmas and New Year

By Jackie Coates December 21, 2020

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

Distance is an intrinsic part of this year’s Christmas season, but that separation doesn’t mean you can’t connect with your loved ones. That’s why we’re giving everyone a chance to connect with friends and family by making our payphones and selected Telstra Air Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge over the Christmas to New Year period.

Our payphone network will be free and available to anyone who needs to use it between December 24, 2020 and January 1, 2021. That way, those who need it can make free local, national and standard mobile calls, SMS to anywhere around Australia.

Hearing the voice of a loved one this time of year is so special, but seeing your loved ones is even better, so we’re also making selected Telstra Air Wi-Fi access points at our payphones and stores free to use during this time also if video calling is more your thing.

It might surprise you, but there are still over 15,000 payphones around Australia, with over 11 million calls made each year – 200,000 of which were to national ‘000’ services. For many, especially vulnerable people like the homeless or those escaping an unsafe family situation, their presence is vital lifeline.

In the past few years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people place calls to their families and loved ones during the Christmas and New Year season, with thousands of gigabytes of data also used through Telstra Air.

Last year’s initiative saw almost half a million calls placed for free on our payphone network during the Christmas period. That represents almost 1.2 million minutes of calls between family, friends and loved ones.

We know this year has been hard because of lockdown and closed borders, and at Christmas, feelings of isolation and loneliness can peak. It’s important that we help in any way we can so that people can have a vital feeling of connection and hope at this time of year. We recommend anyone struggling with their mental health to use our payphones to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

Of course be mindful of COVID-19 during this time, and If you’re using a payphone or a Telstra Air Wi-Fi access point, please respect social distancing, and to practice hygiene measures like handwashing before and after use.

If you’re out and about during the Christmas to New Year period and you spot one of our payphones – even if you don’t need a free call – then make sure to get in touch with your loved ones when you can. We hope you have a great break and some well-deserved relaxation after a tough year.

Things you need to know

Free calls around Australia to local, national and standard mobiles from Telstra payphones from 24 December 2020 – 1 January 2021 inclusive. Free calls exclude international calls and premium services (19x), Mobile Satellite, and 1234, 12456 directory services. Excludes Telstra rented payphones. Free Wi-Fi data at select Telstra Air payphones and Telstra Stores, in Australia only. Telstra Air available for Wi-Fi enabled devices only.

Telstra News |

Improving our payphone pricing and technology

By Pete Manwaring June 3, 2019

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

You may have already heard that we’re embarking on a modernisation project for around 1,800 payphones across the nation. Across our entire payphone network, we’re changing the way we charge for these services, as well as how they can be used.

From today, we are significantly improving the value of payphone calls. We have replaced distance-based pricing for national calls with a simple flat call rate of $0.50 untimed to standard fixed lines in Australia. Calls to Australian mobiles go from $0.50 per 35 seconds to $0.50 for 10 minutes – that’s 17 times the additional value to customers. And for the same cost of a call to an Australian mobile, we now have calls to 11 international destinations for $0.50 per 10 minutes, and reduced pricing and longer calls to a further 60 countries.

On top of these pricing changes, for the first time nationwide, our publicly accessible payphones will be able to receive incoming telephone calls. This will be of particular benefit to those communities where mobile phone usage isn’t as popular, allowing them to remain connected without a cost to them.

These are the most significant changes to payphone call costs in 13 years, giving users greater value for money and more ways to connect using our network.

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’. 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.

Payphones also remain a popular way for Australians to connect with friends and family overseas, so pricing changes will be divided into four tariff bands: $0.50 per 10 minutes to 11 destinations, $0.50 for 2 minutes to 22 destinations, $0.50 for 1 minute to 40 destinations, and $0.50 for 15 seconds for the rest.

We’re also committed to ensuring that payphones help to support the most vulnerable in our community. In December 2018 Telstra, in partnership with Salvation Army, made local, national and standard mobile phone calls from our payphones free on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day to help connect people with their loved ones over the holiday season.

Over time, some of our new payphones will provide a number of additional services, designed to support Australia’s public communication needs for the next 20-30 years. Future payphones could contain a range of features including digital screens, Wi-Fi, 5G enabled technology, mobile device charging, 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.

We want to connect people with the best technology and services possible, improving our public communications offering and the simplification of the pricing structure is just one way we are seeking to meet this goal.

Telstra News |

Seeking clarity through the courts: our new payphones

By Carmel Mulhern May 9, 2019

Payphones are an important part of telecommunications in Australia. With technology evolving, last year we began a project to enhance the services that can be accessed from around 1,800 of our payphones. This is the first major redesign of the payphone booth since 1983.

We can install and upgrade payphones on the basis that they are “low impact facilities” under the Telecommunications Act. A number of local councils have questioned whether the size and design of the upgraded payphone booths means they are still a low impact facility. Like many outdoor facilities, including bus shelters and other street furniture, payphone booths have long been used to display advertising, and concerns have also been raised about the larger size of the advertising screens on the new booths.

To clarify whether the new booths are a low impact facility, the City of Melbourne recently commenced proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) challenging our right to upgrade payphones in the Melbourne city area.

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

Telstra provides over 15,500 public payphones across the country. Payphones in 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’. And 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.

We really believe our new payphones will play a critical role in our cities as they become smarter and more reliant on telecommunications infrastructure.

Over time, our new payphones will provide a number of additional services, designed to support Australia’s public communication needs for the next 20-30 years. They could contain a range of features including digital screens, Wi-Fi, 5G enabled technology, mobile device charging, 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 designing our new payphones, we’ve consulted with a range of stakeholders, including urban designers, academics, local councils, road safety authorities and the police, to ensure that they are safe, do not clutter streets and continue to serve local communities.

Notwithstanding the decision to take this action, we will continue to engage and work with all stakeholders, including local governments and other associations on this project.