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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
BT phone boxes to be mobile masts
A phone box making factory
The boxes may soon become transmitters
Debt-ridden British Telecom's latest attempt to raise cash is to turn its network of phone boxes into mobile phone transmitters.

The telephone giant, which is selling and then leasing back its property portfolio and possibly its vehicle fleet, says the mobile initiative will pay for maintaining its phone box network.
Phonebox Facts
First one: 1884
141,000 in the UK
2m calls a day
15% of 999 calls
45% Childline calls
Vandalism: 1m
Theft costs 6m
Min charge 20p

It said it would make space available in its street-side payphone boxes for low powered, localised transmitters.

The firm said the move would increase coverage and cut the number of blackspots for existing services and for third-generation mobile phone services.

BT said 1,020 locations would initially be available, rising to 5,000 next year.

There have been considerable and growing health concerns about mobile phone masts in the UK.

Money boxes

BT claimed that its initiative could mean fewer large transmitters were needed.

Earlier this year British Telecom called a halt to the expansion of its 141,000 network of public telephone boxes, saying that the growth of mobiles had sent usage tumbling by more than a third in two years.

BT has already taken steps to recoup some of the lost income from phone boxes by increasing the minimum cost of a phone call to 20p.

The firm has also launched initiatives such as selling advertising on the glass panels.

Another measure being rolled out at the moment is the launch of multi-media phones, which can by used to surf the internet, send emails or text messages.

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See also:

28 Jan 01 | Business
BT turns cool on phone boxes
09 Nov 00 | Business
The rise and fall of BT
17 Jan 01 | Business
BT pay phones play the internet game
24 Jan 01 | Business
BT escapes Italian wrath
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