BT and Marconi plan Net payphones

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The Telecom equipment maker Marconi and telecoms giant BT Group yesterday unveiled plans to install a network of 28,000 internet-ready payphones across Britain.

The companies said they intended to introduce the new telephones, which would offer full online access and traditional voice services, from April 2002 and roll them out over five years.

The terminals will be made by Marconi, whose battered shares were boosted 5 per cent higher to 48.90p.

The news came exactly 100 years to the day after Guglielmo Marconi, founder of Marconi's predecessor company, made the first transatlantic wireless transmission.

Under the revenue-sharing deal, Marconi is investing in the terminals while BT will manage the network and promote it. BT said its own revenues from the payphones would be £50m by 2004/2005. For its part, Marconi said it expected to net £100m in revenues over eight years.

Internet access will cost 50p for the first five minutes and 10p per minute thereafter.

Some 3,000 new terminals will be put in place in the first year in busy, well-protected locations such as train stations and airports. But BT said the terminals were "robust enough" to allow them to be installed in high street phone boxes as well.