At the end of this year, O2 will shut down all public payphones, except those in the smaller municipalities. Out of the 3900 telephone booths currently in operation, 1150 remain in municipalities with up to 200 more inhabitants next year. It was confirmed by O2 spokeswoman Lucie Jungmannová this past Wednesday.
The reason for the interference is due to little or no calls from the booths; everyone has mobiles. “In recent years, coverage of the 4G mobile network, which is available in the Czech Republic territory at 96.9 percent, has risen significantly, making it one of the best in Europe. Most people use a mobile phone or a fixed-line, and phone boxes are gradually losing their meaning,” Lucie said, with some people calling less than once a month.
The operator will continue to operate the machines in locations where it is required by the Czech Telecommunication Office as part of the so-called universal service. Every year, the operator sets parameters for the size of the municipality, in which at least one booth will be placed. Another reason for the obligation to place a booth is a weak mobile signal. Loss of the municipality’s operation is then paid by the state to the operator. The subsidy is around 9000 CZK per machine per year.
In addition to the decreasing number of calls, the high demand for maintenance and the fight against vandalism is another reason for interference. Booths are the target of vandals rather than a place to call. Call revenues are thus far from covering maintenance and operating costs.
Interrupted payphones will be operational until December 31. Afterward, the supplier company gradually dismantles the instruments and boxes and ensures its ecological disposal. O2 also cooperates with the Bookstores project, where unused booths become small public libraries. This project was created with the help of the corporate O2 Foundation.
O2 operated most of the payphones at the turn of the century when over 30,000 booths were in operation. Since then, their numbers have been decreasing due to declining usage, an effect from the advent of mobile technology.