New public telephone in Sydney
Mark Baker  /  AP
Luke Gemmell tests a new generation of public telephone in Sydney on Monday.
updated 3/23/2005 8:16:10 PM ET 2005-03-24T01:16:10

Coming to Australia: New pay phones with color touch screens and high-speed Internet connections for sending text, photo and video messages.

Australia's telecommunications giant Telstra, facing increased competition from mobile phones, is outfitting 10 interactive public telephones, at nearly $8,000 each, for a 10-week trial in Sydney's central business district.

E-mail and other Internet access will cost about $1.60 for 20 minutes, text messages are 23 cents each and video messages cost $1.20. Local calls are the same as those at conventional pay phones, 32 cents.

Pay-phone use has declined over the past decade as more people carry mobile phones. About 88 percent of Australians have them, Telstra said.

The company currently owns about half of Australia's 65,000 pay phones, from which about 1 million calls are made each day.

More than half of Telstra's public phones currently allow customers to send text messages. Another 21 phones have been fitted with wireless technology that allows customers to connect remotely to the Internet from their laptops when near the phone.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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