Public phones to disappear from Czech streets

Photo: Kristýna Maková

Public phone booths are soon to disappear from Czech streets. Mobile phone operator O2 announced on Wednesday that it will terminate their operation by the end of the year. The only exception will be small villages, where the operation of public payphones is required by law.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
At the turn of the century, in the heyday of the pay phone, there were approximately 30,000 public telephone booths in the Czech Republic. However, with the arrival of mobile phones, their numbers started to dwindle. Today only around 4,500 of them are left.

“In recent years, 4G mobile phone network availability has significantly increased. It is one of the best in Europe and currently covers 96.9 percent of the country’s territory. Nowadays, most people use mobile phones or a fixed line and telephone booths are losing their purpose,”

O2 spokeswoman Lucie Jugnmannová told the Czech News Agency, adding that according to their data, some phone booths are used less than once a month.

O2 will be obliged by law to operate public payphones in small villages and places without sufficient mobile signal coverage, where the public payphone is an important means of calling for help. As of next year, there will be only around 1,300 such public phones left in the country.

The locations are designated by the Czech Telecommunication Office and the losses for their operation are compensated by the state. On average, the operator receives 9,000 crowns a year per each phone booth.

Along with the falling number of phone calls from public phones, O2 has also been dealing with increasing vandalism. The cost of their maintenance and operation significantly exceeds the revenues generated.

The existing phone booths are set to operate until the last day of 2019, after which they will be dismantled.

Some of the old phone booths will be converted into miniature libraries, known as Knihobudky or Book Boxes, where anyone can freely borrow and return books.

The project, which was launched in 2013, is financially supported by the 02 Foundation. There are currently over 40 phone booths converted into miniature public libraries around the country.