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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
High Street debut for net phones
An iplus Kiosk, Cityspace
An iplus kiosk in central London
Citizens of a leafy suburb on the outskirts of London will soon be able to report graffiti, broken streetlights and abandoned cars to the local council via kiosks in the street.

The street-based information booths in the London borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames allow citizens to ring the council's call centres directly.

All calls made via the kiosks will be routed via the internet rather than over the traditional telephone network.

The kiosk calling system is due to go live in August.

Net phones

Many local authorities have put kiosks on the streets to let citizens know about the range of services they offer.

Some kiosks allow citizens to pay fines, book appointments, search for jobs, get directions or find out about their rights and benefits.

Kingston Council has already taken delivery of four of the i+ kiosks from technology firm Cityspace. A further six kiosks are due to be installed over the next few months.

Graffiti, PA
Citizens can also report graffiti via the kiosks
The kiosks have a touch screen that people can use to find out about Kingston Council.

All the kiosks are also fitted with a speaker and microphone through which citizens can call the council's helpline to report broken street lights, graffiti or abandoned vehicles as soon as they see them.

The kiosks use a technology called IP telephony to allow people to call the council. This converts words into packets of data and sends them across the net.

IP telephony is slowly catching on because it is much cheaper to route many types of call via the net rather than ring direct.

In the past IP telephony has suffered problems because the net is not set up to guarantee response times or the order in which information arrives. Both of these are essential for a phone conversation.

However, these problems have been overcome as the average speed of the net has risen and IP phone technology has improved.

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