Sunday, December 21, 2008

Public Phone

I thought public phone was something of the past. I was wrong…

Malaysia has a mobile phone penetration rate of 94%. The figure is over 100% in some countries, such as Hong Kong, UK and Singapore. Teachers and parents are debating whether students are allowed to bring mobile phones to school. But in the not so distant past, few people used mobile phones. I certainly didn’t own one. When I wanted to make call, I had to look for a public phone.

Chances are, the nearest public phone was out of order, so I had to go to the next one. But the next one was also not working, and I had to search harder. Finally, I found a good one, but there were already 5 or 6 people lining up. The inconsiderate young guy was chatting with his lover over the phone. He talked for more than 10 minutes. Everyone behind him was impatient and agitated. I started to curse him, “This bloody hell f*****… I wanna kill him!”

When mobile phone eventually became a household product, public phone booths went into oblivion. Why bother to use a public phone, when we can call from home, Starbucks, even inside a cinema?

To my surprise, I saw some new public phone booths popping up recently. Who are using them, when even low-waged migrant workers from Indonesia and Bangladesh can afford a mobile phone?

Foreign tourists may still need public phone, as roaming charges for mobile phone remain high. However, the public phone booths I saw weren’t located in tourist areas.

I am still not convinced that public phone is a viable business…


  1. you know what? i dunno how to use the public phone for roaming in US.. :p

  2. Never seen that kind of phone booth before. Yes, I wonder who uses them as most people own mobile phones now.

  3. mobile fon still reigns... but public phones can come in handy when the batt runs out of juice...

  4. kikey
    Isn't public phone similar to landline or cellphone?

    I come across these phone booths in PJ.

    Maybe you are right, but I suspect public phones need subsidies.

  5. Public phone-I've used it during my childhood! Hehehehehehe...and I even had those phone cards. :P When my classmates don't have.

  6. i havent touched a payphone here for more than 10 years. but when i go singapore, i use their payphone alot! and stuff are so well-maintained there, almost 90% of them are functional. whereas, i think, only 10% of our phone here is functioning

  7. 宝茹
    Do you still keep the phone cards? Maybe they are collector's items now, LOL...

    I guess vandalism is a problem here...

  8. I have never used a public phone since I started working. They are always vandalised and I hate going around searching for one that works. Now almost everyone has a hand phone, do we really need public phones?

  9. foongpc
    We have similar experience, hahaha...

  10. There used to be a public phone in my condo but they took it out few years ago. Quite sad to see it go.

  11. initially i thought of using public phone in china, but then decided to use voip which was way cheaper :)