Joanna Lumley launches pounds 42m BT payphone investment

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A pounds 42m investment by BT was launched yesterday by the actress Joanna Lumley (above) to revitalise and modernise more than 60,000 payphones and usher in a new generation of phonecards.

The new phonecards which feature gold-coloured microchips and display the remaining value of calls in cash rather than units will replace the existing phonecards which have been in use for 15 years.

Although in its current form the new phonecard will be a disposable, prepaid card for use in BT payphones, its microchip technology will pave the way for the introduction of smartcards which may be used to buy almost anything. In a cashless society, the smartcard would become interchangeable with other cards so that it could be used in shops of all kinds.

BT says the number of phones that will accept the new cards will increase by 44 per cent to 62,000 by the end of 1996. Around 25,000 of these will also take cash, credit and chargecards compared to 12,000 at present. The old-style red telephone boxes, which BT is currently re-introducing, will also employ the new technology.