Spark plans to upgrade New Zealand’s payphone network

Spark plans to upgrade New Zealand’s network of public payphones as current technology reaches end of life.

The company will also seek to retire cabins that have been underutilized over several years as its equipment is retired.

“Telephone booths became part of Spark in the telecommunications era of the 1980s when we spun off from New Zealand Post, and in 2013 we upgraded many of them to include the dot Wi-Fi access,” Tessa Tierney, Spark’s product manager, said in a press release. tuesday.

“But since that time a lot has changed in Aotearoa – the vast majority of New Zealanders now have mobile phones and free WiFi is more readily available. As a result, phone booth usage has rapidly declined.”

Tierney said call volumes on the landline payphone network have fallen by almost 70% over the past four years, with 90% being used for less than three minutes a day on average.

The use of WiFi hotspots “has followed a similar downward trajectory”.

She said the copper wiring and the public switched telephone network (PSTN) that run the booths are both being phased out as some parts are no longer being made and Spark “runs out of spare parts to use in case of breakdowns”. , which leaves some kiosks non-operational”.

“As a result, we are exploring how we can maintain a more appropriate number of modern phone booths across the country, while removing booths that are no longer fit for purpose and no longer used as frequently as they once were.”

Tierney said current fixed cabins cannot be upgraded to fiber or wireless networks, which means future-proofing the service “will require replacing the cabins with a new end-to-end solution.”

Tierney said Spark is now “exploring what a modern New Zealand phone booth might look like,” which could include “everything from wayfinding to built-in environmental sensors to localized information and content” seen on the screen. ‘foreign.

“We’ve seen some pretty exciting examples overseas with features focused on the civic value of communities alongside modern telecommunications services.”

A “small number” of low-use phone boxes will be phased out of Auckland North Shore, East Auckland and Wellington South from June 2022 “in line with Spark’s PSTN phase-out and Spark’s copper network Chorus”.

“We anticipate that the vast majority of New Zealanders will not notice this change, given the very low levels of usage we are seeing on phone boxes these days. We recognize, however, that for the small number of people who still use phone booths, they may find this change troubling,” she said.

Spark will work alongside key community groups across the country to identify any concerns.

“We want to assure New Zealanders that this is not something that will happen overnight. The removal of low-use phone booths and any upgrades to more modern alternatives will take several years. »

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