Why Telkom can’t completely ditch payphones

At the end of January 2018, Telkom said that it planned to eliminate a number of outdated services, including public payphones, as a means of cutting down on costs.

In an interview with the Financial Times (January 2018), Telkom’s former consumer business head, Attila Vitai said that the move was part of the company’s repositioning as provider of data-based communication services.

He added that payphones were particularly expensive due to some of the hidden costs involved.

“We were employing people to go out into the Karoo to empty a coin box,” Vitai said at the time.

“It would cost us something like R2,000 to send someone out to collect the money, and there was like 10c in the coin box — it really is uneconomical.”

Vitai said that subject to Icasa and government’s approval, it would only have payphones in a few key locations within first six months of 2018.

This is because the company was still bound by regulations to provide the payphones as a community-service element, he said.

In a follow-up to BusinessTech queries, a Telkom spokesperson confirmed that as of the start of 2019 it had removed a number of payphones in terms of the prescribed regulatory process.

“You can however still find payphones in South Africa,” the spokesperson said.

“Payphones are still available in prisons and where a community, as part of the consultation process, expressed the need to keep the payphone.”

Read: South Africa’s best mobile network: Vodacom vs MTN vs Cell C vs Telkom

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Why Telkom can’t completely ditch payphones