SUPPLEMENTARY MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY
BRITISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLC
BT PAY PHONE SERVICE
Between 1984 and 1996-97 BT virtually doubled
the number overall of public payphones that it provided. In 1997,
as part of a general review of BT's licence, Oftel and BT negotiated
an agreement to increase the number of purely social need public
payphones (ie boxes that would not otherwise be provided on economic
grounds) by up to 500 over five years. This was always
a maximum figure rather than a target.
To enable an objective decision to be made on
the extent of social need, BT and Oftel trialled and agreed an
assessment scheme. New social provision payphones are now installed
(subject to the availability of a suitable site) if they score
sufficiently highly in terms of:
(a) The number of houses in the proposed
payphone catchment area;
(b) The type of housing; and
(c ) the distance to the nearest public payphone.
Oftel have been updated periodically on progress
under this scheme and this is where the figure of 130 quoted in
the Director General Telecommunications oral evidence to the committee
comes from. This figure specifically does not include any new
installations that were justified on economic grounds. Indeed,
as indicated below, a total of 356 new boxes were installed between
4 January 2000 and mid November alone.
The provision of street payphones follows the
same process regardless of whether an economic or a social payphone
is involved. The lead time between receipt of request to installation
is 12 weeks, assuming a site is available. This includes
the drawing up of plans;
four week allowance for Local Planning
Authority to grant General Development Order;
arranging electricity and line plant
The minimum fee remained at 10p for 16 years,
during which time both the number of payphones (see above) and
their serviceability has increased significantly (the latter to
an average of 96 per cent of payphones working at any time).
Payphone prices have not doubledthe minimum
fee hasbut calls still continue to be charged in 10p units,
with the minimum fee buying two units. 10p now buys 55 seconds
for any UK inland call. On a local call this time has decreased
by 18 per cent but the time allowed for a long-distance (ie regional/national)
call has increased by 28 per cent so that any such calls of two
minutes or more duration either cost the same or are actually
cheaper than previously. This is important, as research indicates
that people who are untelephoned or socially disadvantaged tend
to use payphones to make longer calls, as such, they are largely
unaffected by the minimum fee, but benefit from the cheaper rate.
Until a couple of years ago there was a steady
decline in payphone use as a result of the growth of mobile phone
service. Experience across Europe has shown that, when mobile
phones are first introduced, payphones gain because the extra
revenue from calls from payphones to mobiles exceeds the loss
of revenue as a result of customers making calls on their mobile
instead of using a payphone. However, once mobile penetration
reaches about 30 per cent, payphones start losing money quite
quickly. We are now well past this level of penetration and revenue
loss has accelerated dramatically with the advent of pre-paid
mobiles, which are particularly suited to potential payphone customers.
In the last couple of years mobile penetration
has increased from 25 per cent to over 60 per cent. Overall, the
number of payphone calls declined by 18 per cent in 1999-2000
and the total amount of time spent on calls went down by 20 per
cent. This trend has continued this year and the experience of
other developed countries is that it is not reversible.
Only 186 of the street payphone population of
95,000 payphones were ceased between 4 January 2000 and the middle
of last month. Many of these will have been replaced by a new
84 were removed at the request of
the local council, police or other interested parties; typically
where there had been serious social disruption or criminal activity,
such as drug dealing.
45 were ceased as "out of service"
for instance where a kiosk had been destroyed by an accident and
there was not demand for its reprovision, or where vandalism or
theft had created a situation where continued provision was impractical.
33 were withdrawn as a result of
"Site Improvement". This includes where the nature of
an area had changed (eg redevelopment had caused the payphone
site to be unsuitable or, maybe, in a dangerous position, or maybe
the adjacent building use had changed).
24 were taken away because the owner
of the site instructed us to do so and there was no other suitable
During the same period 356 new boxes
were installeda net gain of 170.
The 195 service was introduced in 1991 (when
we introduced Directory Enquiries charging from non-payphone lines)
to enable visually impaired people and others unable to use a
phonebook through disability (eg severe arthritis, upper limb
disabilities etc) access to a free directory enquiry service.
The service also provides customers to both inland and international
Directory Enquiries with onward connection of their call upon
request. Currently around 233K customers are registered for the
Customers apply on a standard application form
(often an engineer installing a new line will arrange for this
to be sent to the customer). The form certifies that the customer
suffers from a relevant disability (this part of the process is
being tightened up to ensure that an official stamp of a hospital/GP/Health
Centre/etc is also provided on the form).
Once accepted as eligible for the service, customers
are provided with a (four digit) PIN number which, when used on
a call, verifies their registration against name and address (but
not telephone number). So the service can be used from any line.
Currently, verified 195 users can obtain up
to five numbers per call and can request onward connection (charged
to a specified landline number) if required.
We advertise the service in the following places:
The BT Guide for the Elderly &
Posters in doctors' surgeries and
at Social Services Offices;
All Social Service Sensory teams
are aware of the service;
Contact details are in the Phone
The BT Age & Disability Team
give details at presentations;
Our repair service people are aware
of the service;
The service is mentioned in BT produced
leaflets "BT Services for Older or Disabled People"
and services for Customers with "Special Needs".