20,000 BT Payphone Boxes to Vanish from the UK by 2022

When's the last time you used a payphone?

20,000 BT Payphone Boxes to Vanish from the UK by 2022

As the smartphone has emerged as a standard part of day-to-day life, public payphone boxes have become a relic of a time gone by. While you might have “fond” memories of hiding out in a payphone box to avoid the rain or phoning your parents to let them know you’ll be home late, there’s a good chance you haven’t touched one of those germ-infested phones in almost a decade.

Once, the UK was home to about 92,000 pay phone boxes, all run and managed by BT. Since then, we’ve fallen to about 40,000 in total, and most of those just aren’t making any money. With that in mind, BT has decided to remove the unwanted boxes from our streets once and for all.

Why Not Destroy all Payphone Boxes?

Approximately 20,000 payphone boxes will be officially torn down by the time we hit 2022. It makes sense when you think about it. The current boxes are costing BT about £6 million in repair costs a year – that’s money they could be investing in dozens of new opportunities.

So, if payphones are so costly, why are we keeping any of them? The simple answer is that they’ve been around for so long that they’re becoming harder to get rid of. A lot of people still consider the red phone box to be the iconic symbol of Britain, and about 2,400 of the payphone boxes we have on our streets today have been officially classified as “Grade 2” historical buildings. In other words, you can’t just tear them down.

Even with a decline in payphone usage of around 90% over the last decade, we’re not going to be able to get rid of all the boxes in Britain – which could be great news if you’re caught in a storm without an umbrella…

The Unfortunate Aftermath

InLinkUK Kiosk

InLinkUK Kiosk

Unfortunately, the £6 million that BT is saving on its payphone maintenance, might not be going towards more positive initiatives like improving broadband speed and implementing fibre across the country. Instead, it looks like BT will be replacing over 1,000 of those phones with their new “InLinkUK” smart kiosks.

As we’ve mentioned before here at UC Today, there is a possibility that these kiosks could be beneficial for modern communities, but there’s a much better chance that they’re going to end up being a huge waste of money. Sure, they can offer public WiFi in a shared capacity, and deliver free UK phone calls, and you can even charge your phone from one if you’re willing to stand around at a USB port for half an hour – but we don’t think they’re going to get a great deal of love.

Ultimately, these smart kiosks may be the phone box of the future, but that just means that in another decade or so, we’re going to be talking about the cost involved with taking those down, too.


Got a comment?

AvatarNicholas 06:09, 19 Sep 2017

This information is wrong. Around 65,000 calls a day pass through BT’s payphones not including payphones managed by other companies.

A call to an 0800 number generates BT 79p per minute. This is billed to whoever owns the 0800 number. So a 10 minute call to an 0800 number would rake in £7.90.

Calling a mobile from a BT payphone costs 10p per 12 seconds around 60p per minute and thus the termination charge by the mobile operator is less than 1p per minute these days, this gives BT a 59p per minute profit margin.

BT also makes a lot of money through selling advertising space on its phone boxes. The average box brings in £90 a week.

BT also makes money through leasing the boxes to be used as mini mobile masts that boost 3G and 4G coverage.

It may cost £6 million but they still rake in £40 million from this business which is why they still remain.

There is always a need for working payphones and its only till that moment when your battery dies or is stolen or other reason you need to make an emergency call that you appreciate having payphones around.

Ita quite pathetic that BT can’t spend money on maintaining them or upgrading the boxes to a modern standard considering how much money they make from them.

Also BT likes to remove heavily used boxes and keep ones that never get used which I have evidence of. A box near me was planned for removal and had 1,870 calls passed in a year whilst another 400 metres away had less than 50 and was in a bad state of repair.

Reply to this comment
  • AvatarRob Scott 10:09, 18 Sep 2017

    Absolutely agree Gavin

    Reply to this thread
  • AvatarNicholas 06:09, 19 Sep 2017

    @ gavin

    This is already the case with many. However I have been lobbying BT for sometime about its boxes in rural locations to add Wifi and Mobile phone signal boosting.

    However, it is the mobile networks who do not wish to take this up as the cost/benefit ratio doesn’t justify the number of users.

    A large number of rural boxes were saved from removal,however they were made cashless. So adding Wifi would require more visits.

    These options are more suitable for urban locations and is already the case in most cities and towns across the country.

    It is also questionable about the £6 million BT spends on Payphones. They do not clean them and they only do so when someone complains. They also do not fix them unless someone reports them. The payphones themselves self report any faults and vandalism, so BT are very aware of the ones that do not work.

    There has also been a large amount of thefts from phoneboxes recently where in one small town,£70,000 was stolen. This is a lot of money for payphones that nobody uses???

    My theory is that BT want public money and money from mobile operators to foot the bill for its payphones. They have already demanded £600 a year per box to keep particular boxes in situ in a particular area. When you look at these boxes, it doesn’t look like they spend £600 per year on them.

    The good news is, Clear channel who own New World Payphones are refurbishing there boxes and upgrading the software on there phones and puts BT to shame.

    Reply to this thread
AvatarGavin 10:09, 18 Sep 2017

Surely it will be more beneficial to, rather than tear them down, let them be repurposed. They could be refurbished into Wi-Fi hotspots (already being done in waves around Leeds and I’ll bet other areas), provide stronger phone signal for the smartphones that are rendering them obsolete in the first place, particularly in valleys and the like, or even house medical equipment like defibrillators!

Reply to this comment

Please login to comment


Popular Posts

Related Articles