Let it be…

People have been proclaiming its demise for years now. Me and others now and then take pictures of them in exotic places to remind ourselves and our grandchildren that there was a time when we built houses for telephones. Yes, the phone booth was easier to find twenty years ago. In Sweden they peaked in 1981 at 5 phone booths per 1000 inhabitants. Even though they still today just outnumber ATMs at 3 phone booths per 10.000 inhabitants, callers in need are not helped by payphones that do not accept cash or by the difficulty in finding places that sell payphone cards.

One may also wonder if incumbents have given up on these exotic points of interconnect, as so many of them are out of order or badly maintained. In Finland they are gone all together. Even though the website of the Independent Payphone Association of New York has expired, we understand that some private payphone owners still make money in the Big Apple – to the tune of $200 per month. Mobile phones – it is sometimes forgotten – run out of battery or simply are not fully ubiquitous yet!

But maybe the Finns will regret their haste. As mobile data demand continues to grow exponentially and operators struggle to cope, there has been much talk about femtocells and WiFi offload solutions. Well, how about using those pieces of phone booth real estate? It turns out that that is exactly what TeliaSonera is doing in Sweden. At least 25% of the remaining phone booths serve as hubs for Telia homerun WiFi surf zones, offering laptop, smartphone and tablet users a boost while relieving the 3G network. Let me predict that the number of phone booths in places like downtown Stockholm will not reduce further! Now, how about attaching some chairs and benches as well…?

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