The bright red telephone box - the ubiquitous British landmark - may soon become a thing of the past. British Telecom (BT) plans to remove the boxes as and when they become unprofitable.
The kiosks will be allowed to remain - even if phones have been removed because they are not used enough. Alternatively, councils can pay an annual fee of 500 pounds to keep a phone inside the box, about half the cost faced by BT.
There were about 95,000 BT payphones across Britain in 2002. However, the growth of the mobile phone has meant usage has dropped dramatically, and 31,000 have been removed since then.
"During the consultation process around removing unprofitable payphones, a number of suggestions have been voiced by local people and local government," BT said.
"We have listened to these suggestions and can now confirm that local authorities that wish to maintain red telephone boxes - minus the telephone equipment - for aesthetic or heritage reasons will be able to do so," according to BT, quoted by BBC News.
The telephone box - officially called the public telephone kiosk - was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott to protect callers from the rainy British climate. The colour red was chosen to make them easy to spot.
The first standard kiosk introduced by the UK Post Office was produced in concrete in 1920. The red telephone box was the result of a competition in 1924 to design a kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs which had hitherto resisted the Post Office's effort to erect concrete kiosks on their streets. Since then and till 1996 the kiosk underwent nine design changes.
However, not all kiosks are red. In some parts of Britain the telephone services were not under the post office monopoly. Anyway now, after privatisation, they are owned by private communication companies.
In Kingston-upon-Hull, the kiosks are painted cream. In Guernsey they were originally yellow, but repainted blue after privatisation. In Jersey they are painted cream and yellow.