British Telecommunications plans to open 2,500 multi-media phone
booths, complete with screens, that will enable users to get a free
e-mail address and collect and send messages over the internet. The
screens can also be used to surf the internet and undertake electronic
commerce transactions such as online shopping, and other interactive
services such as home banking.
John Swingewood, director of BT Internet Services, said: "The booths
will mean that anyone in the UK can have an e-mail address. They will
bring all the benefits of the internet to the general public."
E-mail addresses would be supplied by BT's Talk 21 free e-mail
service, and the call rates are likely to be set at 1p above local
tariffs. Users without an e-mail address can follow instructions to
register via the screen and be able to send messages within minutes of
the registration process.
The booths will have similar livery and design to BT's normal phone
booths. The manoeuvrable 10-inch square screen will appear in the centre
of the telephone unit and will be activated by picking up the telephone.
Normal phone calls will also be possible. They will begin to be opened
from March. Railway and underground stations, motorway service stops and
shopping malls, are likely to be early sites.
BT is investing "several million pounds" in the phone booth venture,
which follows a huge growth in internet usage in the UK. The number of
people using the medium has doubled in the past two years to 7m
reflecting the rapid increase in computer ownership and usage.
The move to increase the number of people with an e-mail address is part of BT's strategy of being well placed to benefit from the expected sharp uptake in e-commerce. The group is part of the British Interactive Broadcasting venture, which aims to turn Britain's television sets into interactive devices for e-mail and e-commerce services.
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