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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 16:41 GMT
BT pay phones play the internet game
BT's multimedia kiosks Web
The multiphones have so far failed to catch the public's imagination
Free and unlimited internet and e-mail access is being offered at about 500 BT payphones in the UK.

The offer - which is due to run for 5 months - is an attempt by BT to get people using its new multimedia kiosks, which the company hopes will eventually take the place of traditional payphones.

BT's payphone business has suffered with the growth of mobile phones. Revenues from public kiosks have fallen by a third in the past 2 years.

The introduction of pay-as-you-go mobiles, boosting ownership by 60%, has created the biggest dent in payphone revenue.

So the company has been slowly updating its 140,000 payphones, turning them into multimedia kiosks instead.

The so-called Multiphones have a standard telephone handset with a large touchscreen display.

That means customers can make a standard call or access the internet and send e-mail.

Relaunching the concept

BT has chosen websites linking to the homepage that they think will be of interest to their target audience: travellers and the young.

There are now almost 500 multiphones across the UK, but so far they have failed to catch the public's imagination.

Payphones Web
Free offer should boost revenues when the company starts charging again in June
Now, customers will be given free and unlimited online access. The normal 1 per 10 minutes online charge is being dropped.

BT hopes the free trial will persuade many more people to use the kiosks, which should ultimately boost revenues when the company starts charging again in June.

The issue of free access to the internet has been a thorny one, as several companies offering unlimited surfing have been forced to withdraw their services as demand has been too high.

BT has already spent a lot of money developing its next generation mobile service, which will include internet services, so could be in danger of competing with itself.

And it faces strong competition from other providers of internet services in kiosks, including Photo-Me which has unveiled a programme to upgrade its photo booths so that customers can send e-mails of their own photographs to family or friends.

See also:

21 Dec 00 | Broadband
11 Jan 00 | Business
08 Jan 01 | Letter From America
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