Despite wide usage of mobile telephony, the humble public booth has not lost its relevance

In the age of near saturation levels of mobile phones, video conferencing and other internet enabled modes of communications, the good old public call office (PCO) is still around. Statistics show that there are 12.62 lakh pay-phones operating across the country, with Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu topping the list of circles.

The data of Public Telephone Booths or PCO, excluding Village Public Telephones (VPTs), shows that PCOs are “generally working satisfactorily”.

To further improve the functioning of PCOs, including those functioning at railway stations and other public places, state-owned BSNL and MTNL are taking a host of steps. The two companies own a majority of these public phones and they are conducting regular check-ups for the proper upkeep of the instruments. They are also actively monitoring complaints booked for PCOs, with faults being “attended to on a priority basis”.

Introduced in the 1990s, the booths became a lifeline for millions of Indians in every nook and corner of the country.