China Telecom

Shanghai, China | C.1995

Photo Credit: Shiyu Rao

China Telecommunications Corporation, known under its trading name “China Telecom,” is a Chinese state-owned telecommunication company. It is the largest fixed-line service and the third largest mobile telecommunication provider in China.

In the mid-1990s, China Telecom installed phones in populated areas for public use. Pay phones were installed on city streets, public phones went up at newspaper stands, and hole-in-the-wall shops offered phones to make a call and pay the owner.

The introduction of mobile phones led to a significant decrease in public pay phone usage. By 2015, more than 30% of previously public-use phones were now “zero-use” booths in the Shanghai area, resulting in over 3,000 pay phones being dismantled.

But the country has not been wiped clean of all public phone spaces. The remaining 7,000 public telephone booths still provide an important function of free emergency communication services for public security, fire protection, and emergency services.

China Telecom has even considered adding new public phones for modern needs. In the Xuhui District, a pilot program was launched to transform 236 of the booths into mini-libraries. These modernized booths would still contain phones to allow the public to make free emergency calls.

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