Czech Telecom to introduce short messaging for payphones

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The popularity of mobile phones in the Czech Republic has been increasing steadily for several years. Czechs seem to have developed a special passion for SMS messages. In absolute figures, Czechs are second in Europe in sending short text messages, behind Germany. However, while 82 million Germans sent 200 million SMSs in 2001, the ten-million-strong Czech nation exchanged an incredible 180 million text messages.

However, the overall popularity of mobile phones has had a serious impact on the usage of fixed line telephones, and mainly telephone booths which are operated by the dominant Czech fixed-line telephone operator, Czech Telecom. Revenues from Czech Telecom's pay phones have been decreasing steadily since 1997 and the company estimates that there are now less than 2 million regular users of public pay phones. Some say that phone booths now serve as a convenient bad-weather shelter for mobile phone users.

In an effort to regain the lost positions, Telecom is introducing new services - sending SMS messages and e-mails from public pay phones. As of June 1, 15,000 pay phones around the country will have this capability and the service will gradually be implemented in all of the 18,000 card pay phones. Telecom has also installed several public internet terminals, but this project is still in the experimental stage.

I spoke to Jan Ader, the director of Czech Telecom's pay phone division.