Improvement plan for phone booths
(11.10.2011)

Shanghai’s thousands of telephone booths may be revamped to provide mobile-phone chargers and Wi-Fi, the service manager said yesterday.

Shanghai Telecom, the phone booth manager, said it plans to make the facilities more helpful to people.

As mobiles become dominant in making daily calls, few people now use public phones, especially as most of these phones can be used only with prepaid phone cards rather than coins.

During a survey by a local TV station about the future of public phone booths yesterday, most respondents said they preferred to see more practical and convenient functions.

Many complained the phone booths are just “street-side decorations.” Few people have a phone card when they need to make an urgent phone call, interviewees said.

Shanghai Daily visited some downtown streets yesterday and found all the booths were card-only. People who live and work nearby told reporters the booths are idle most of the day.

A pedestrian on Nanjing Road said: “It would be better if mobile-phone chargers are available in the booths, as nearly everyone uses a mobile and batteries often run down.”

Shanghai has more than 8,000 telephone booths, including many on streets in the central business district that are designed to look like the classic red kiosks originating in London.

One person said: “Without more practical functions, these card-only red kiosks are more like decorative structures to boost the sightseeing attraction of the central business district. That is kind of a waste.”

Wang Yan, a Shanghai Telecom manager, said the company is planning to boost facilities at the kiosks. In future, he said, people can find mobile-phone chargers and information about public transport and dining venues using touchscreen technology.

He said the company is also expanding Wi-Fi access at telephone booths. Since March, 530 kiosks have provided a Wi-Fi service.

Officials said most kiosks in Shanghai were designed to take cards to foil thieves seeking coinage.

Emergency calls to police, firefighters and paramedics are free at all kiosks.