Two weeks ago, The Washington Post published a story about the death of the pay phone. It was aptly named "Requiem for the Pay Phone." Basically, it argued that as cell phones use increase, pay phones are retired from the streets.
Now, according to Fortune in "Making Pay Phones Pay," Bell Canada is trying to change this situation.
Bell Canada recently started converting public pay phones in Toronto, Montreal, and Kingston into terminals for "Wi-Fi" Internet connections. Some U.S. phone companies may soon follow suit.
Wi-Fi, short for "wireless fidelity," is a wireless local area network that uses unlicensed airwaves to link laptop users. The service is the hottest thing in telecom these days, and Wi-Fi antennas and radios are popping up in Starbucks cafes, city parks, and shopping malls. The ideal location? A high-traffic area with a wired, high-speed connection to the Net.
Of course, pay phones represent an excellent solution. They can be upgraded with DSL technology. And they already are installed in high traffic public areas, like airports or hotel lobbies.
Will Bell Canada make money with these Wi-Fi hotspots? It's hard to guess, especially if this service is offered for free, as it is the case up to the end March.
Please visit the Bell Canada's AccessZone page for details on the program and pilot locations.
Sources: Stephanie N. Mehta, Fortune, January 7, 2003; Yuki Noguchi, The Washington Post, December 30, 2002
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