PCOs, soon a thing of the past

Greater number of cellphones have pushed phones out of booths

It is a new era with new technologies evolving each day. There were days when people used to flock to telephone booths to speak to their relatives. We used to witness long queues in front of booths but now all that is history. 

With the revolution in the telecommunication field – public call offices (PCOs for the uninitiated) have been replaced by all time kiosks - stocking everything but a public phone. Cellphones, which have made communication convenient, easier and quicker have overruled the ubiquitous PCO. It isn’t that public landline phones are a failed technology but given the high penetration of cellular services they have been rendered practically useless - especially in a city like Delhi.

Metrolife interacts with some youngsters to find out whether they still use phone booths or are more dependent on cellphones instead.

“Who uses telephone booths nowadays? We have mobile phones now. They are affordable and the call rates are also cheap. So, who will go to a booth? That concept is gone now,” said Siddharth Basu, a student who is pursuing B.A through Correspondence from Delhi University.

Tulika Mukherjee, an executive with a corporate firm, also agrees that she no longer uses these booths to make calls. “Cellphones are easy to use and have facilities like texting and are available round-the-clock. Owning Androids and BlackBerrys have made life so much easier. Besides this, most booths charge one rupee per minute but with a variety of plans, service providers charge a much lower rate.”

Telephone booth owners are also bearing the brunt. Vikas Gupta, a shopkeeper in East Delhi, who has a public telephone in his shop, says that he bought it to earn extra money. But now, nobody uses the machine. “I started this booth along with a cyber cafe so that I could make some extra money. There was an STD and ISD option too.

But, hardly anyone uses them now. Everyone has mobile phones and there are various internet options like Skype is available, through which one can make ISD calls. These technologies have made our life tough.” 

Many owners have also given away their booths due to lack of customers. Many have converted them into a mini shop selling cold drinks, waffers or even accessories. One of them is Sushil Kumar who has a booth cum shop selling cold drinks, chocolates, wafers, candies, bangles and hairbands, clips etc. “I did not have any option left.

I initially started off with this booth but with the coming of cellphones, nobody comes to my booth to make calls. That is why I started selling all these items to change my source of income.”

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