Sci & Tech

Wake-Up Call for Payphones

Wake-Up Call for Payphones
Wake-Up Call for Payphones

To ride a bus, buy bread and milk, or even use an ATM, Iranians are no strangers to waiting in line. Some 30 years ago, citizens would also line up to use public payphones, which were then the only method of telephoning someone.

Today, several payphones still stand on the streets of most major cities. No matter where in Tehran you may be, a payphone is most likely only a three-minute walk away.

However, with mobile phones going beyond saturation point, especially after the rise of smartphones and broadband Internet, people gradually shied away from payphones. Once available for purchase at every newsstand and supermarket, telephone cards can now only be bought at official outlets.   

CEO of Telecommunications Company of Iran Alireza Seydi, recently announced payphones maintenance costs are more than the revenues they earn.

According to the official, it costs $10 to maintain a single payphone monthly, while the revenues generated from each payphone is only $7, ISNA quoted him as saying.

There are currently 31,000 payphones in the capital with the number decreasing 10% each year.

In March, Reza Khalili, technical and engineering deputy of TCI, said there are four payphones in Tehran per every 1,000 persons, "four times the international standards."

Data indicate that each phone is used for 20 minutes on a daily average, which, by extension, means that some of the phones are not used even once in several days, Khalili said.  

The official added that 1,100 payphones have been updated with modern multimedia devices and can be used to access Internet. To minimize chances of breakdowns and damage, most of these phones are placed in enclosed public spaces.

Davoud Zareian, spokesperson of TCI, has said that there are a total 167,000 payphones in the country, some of which might be adopted for different usage.  

While Khalili stated that nearly 2,000 payphones are taken off the streets each year, Zareian noted that the TCI plans to preserve the phones to update their usage, specifically to create WiFi hotspots.

Whether payphones will eventually become a nostalgic element of the past or updated for WiFi accessibility remains to be seen.