All of Telstra’s 15,000 payphones in Australia are free of charge from today.
The move sees standard national calls and SMS become free from all Telstra payphones starting today, though premium, satellite, and international calls will still be charged; Telstra Air wi-fi remains free for all eligible Telstra customers. It follows recent decisions by Telstra to make its payphones free during natural disasters, as well as in remote Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Telstra CEO Andy Penn, Telstra’s payphones are an “iconic and critical” part of the Australian community.
“For many Australians, the availability of a payphone is a vital lifeline, especially for those who are vulnerable including the homeless, people who are isolated, or someone escaping an unsafe situation.
“I have been moved seeing firsthand queues of people waiting in line, to use a payphone to tell their
family and friends they’re safe after a bushfire, a cyclone or some other natural disaster has taken the mobile network down. I can only imagine the relief their families feel knowing their loved one is safe,” he said.
Penn added that, during COVID lockdowns, domestic and family violence agencies have seen a 60 per cent rise in new clients seeking help, as well as in abusive behaviours.
“It’s not always easy for people in these situations to use a home phone or their mobile to get help so I hope that making payphone calls free might play a small part in helping them get the assistance they need,” he said.
According to Telstra, around 11 million calls were made from its payphones in the past year, with 230,000 of these being to critical services like 000 or Lifeline.
Telstra payphones will also become coinless from October 1, with Telstra Phonecards being recommended for international and premium calls.