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Do-It-Yourself Payphones or Netphones?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the ever-changing-face-of-telecommunications dept.

Technology 37

Controlio asks: "With the explosion of cell phones, pay phones are disappearing quickly. I work in a large sports venue that seats over 60,000 - but has only 5 pay phones. The problem is the rent on those 5 phones is ridiculous - we net a loss of over $150 per phone per month. Its a great convenience for the public, but it'd be cheaper for us to have people stand in the middle of the stadium with cell phones saying "here, make a call for free." We have a great deal of both telephone and internet capabilities - we're a brand new facility and have far more than adequate data and voice pipes to our building. The question, is how can one roll their own payphone service? Has anyone done this? Where can you purchase equipment? What are the technical ramifications if we want to stay basic or get complicated with things like TTY or internet phones? Does VoIP or POTS make more sense? Any advice on where to get started?"

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You want a Customer Owned Coin Operated Telephone (3, Informative)

outlier (64928) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404761)

Look around for "customer owned coin operated telephones" (COCOTs). You can buy your own payphone -- no need to rent, but they are a favorite target of phreakers...

A quick google search came up with this [payphoneoutlet.com]

You forgot something (3, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405053)

There are a bunch of sites offering to sell payphones and related hardware to would-be COCOT operators. But nowhere can I find out how much it costs to actually get a dial tone. The site you link to has a fancy table citing "revenue", but nothing about expenses.

Since Controlio has neglected to mention how much his present setup costs before he accounts for revenue (Ask Slashdots are painfully sparse on details these days!), we don't know whether he's paying too much for his pay phones, or just not getting any revenue. I suspect he's hoping that magic technology can provide him with phone service for a nominal cost. Which is silly. A business phone line costs $60/mo or so. I doubt if you can get any kind of fixed-point connectivity, be it POTS or IP or whatever, for any less. And in most cases, probably a lot more.

Re:You forgot something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6405266)

There are a bunch of sites offering to sell payphones and related hardware to would-be COCOT operators. But nowhere can I find out how much it costs to actually get a dial tone.

How the hell is the payphone company going to know that? They're just providing the hardware. Call your local phone company and find out how much a line with say, unlimited local calling and a reasonable LD plan costs, and structure the cost for people to use the payphone to cover a little more than that cost, so you make a profit. Remember, this is a *customer-operated* phone, the phone company's concern over what you do with this line ends at the RJ-11 jack.

I don't know how programmable those phones are, perhaps you could restrict them to making local calls only, or have LD calls be a maximum of 5 or 10 minutes or something.

Re:You forgot something (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 11 years ago | (#6406255)

A business line is MUCH less than $60 / month at least in the 9 states I've worked with. The difference is that you generally pay by the minute even for local calls, although plans can be had (still for much less than $60 / month) that include unlimited local calls.

Businesses also generally have a wider array of providers to choose from. Any larger busness is going to be getting service via a T1 / PRI ISDN frequently direct from a CLEC or ILEC.

Bash, Smash, Crash (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404767)

How often do those pay phones get beat up, abused, have the receivers torn off and their coin slots filled with glue? I suspect that, unless you armored your phones like tanks, you'd wind up having to replace them every other week, or worse.

What you might consider is REDUCING the number of payphones, and putting them in easy sight of concession stands, etc, wherever your security will normally be stationed. That way they'll get more traffic per phone. And yes, it's a convenience, but cell phones have mostly put pay phones out of business already.

Dont rent Buy! (2, Interesting)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404777)

Why rent when you can buy, payphones are dirt cheap. Check out Payphone.com [payphone.com] They have models for starting at 299. You can get payphones at local auctions too, for half the price. (How much is your rent at a $150 a month loss per phone?!)

Thou I like the idea of VoIP, try to keep things simple when dealing with the public. Heck, if you really just want to play with technology, get a premade kiosk for 6K that supports VoIP and see if you turn a profit. (Thou at a stadium, who wants to surf the net when the game is on...)

Re:Dont rent Buy! (1)

Smartcowboy (679871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404813)

If you don't bother bidding on auction [ebay.com] , you can have one for even less.

Pay Phone Service a necessary expenditure (4, Funny)

Nathan Ramella (629875) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404788)

At this point, most payphones are basically like road-side assistance phones. It's necessary for the well being of society that we have these life-lines, even if they're not profitable.

Just think of Morpheus reaching for the phone, and there's nothing there!

PLEASE people.

Think of the Morpheuses!

Re:Pay Phone Service a necessary expenditure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6404820)

dear funny-moderation-karma-whore:

please get some better jokes. please think of the people.

Re:Pay Phone Service a necessary expenditure (1)

Nathan Ramella (629875) | more than 11 years ago | (#6409814)

Somebody has a case of the mondays! :(

dude.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6404806)

I dont know what stadium you work at, but the only two that seat better than 60 thousand will:

-Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia) is closing at the end of the season, with implosion in February.
-Olympic Stadium (Montreal) isn't gonna have a baseball team next year. (Let alone ever have more than 10,000 at a game)

It ain't worth rolling out VOIP or anything else given that these two wont be around next season.

It also might just be cheaper for you to just get your own cell phone. Most companies have cheap plans available for light talkers.

Re:dude.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6404845)

When did they announce an implosion date for the vet? I haven't heard this, and I have heard rumors that it couldn't be blown up because of the septa lines right underground.

Re:dude.... (1)

tdemark (512406) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404922)

I have heard rumors that it couldn't be blown up because of the septa lines right underground.

Sounds plausable.

But, Google says otherwise [google.com] .

Re:dude.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6406286)

I saw it in last weekend's Courier Post. They're officially closing the vet for business and moving to the new park in January.

I've heard those same rumors. If you study a map of the area closely (I suggest satellite photos), note where the SEPTA terminals are located along Broad, and that'll be about where the line runs. Note the distance from the stations themselves and the edge of the Vet building. (Try using the baseball diamond as a guide, recall it's 90 feet from base to base. Or, if the image was taken during football season, the yard markers will do.)

Of course, you could always go to a game yourself and do your own eyeball estimation. It looks to be several hundred feet.

Re:dude.... (1)

TheKey (465831) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404962)

NASCAR?

Re:dude.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6406263)

NASCAR (and other car-racing venues) can hold numbers in the 6-digit range.

60,000 is commonly the number for bowl-style football stadiums like the Vet or Olympic.

Re:dude.... (1)

gristlebud (638970) | more than 11 years ago | (#6406615)

Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN seats over 100,000
Michigan Stadium seats over 100,000
Pontiac Stadium in Detriot seats over 80,000
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainville FL seats over 84,000

not that much money..... (1)

nicedream (4923) | more than 11 years ago | (#6404860)

I would think that a stadium of 60k+ would have better cost cutting measures to worry about than 5 payphones that cost only $750/month to maintain.

Find em... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6405128)

Put it another way: that's one phone per 12,000 spectators! Or if you assume that 80% of the spectators have a cell, then that's one per 2400 spectators. Imagine the lines! If they could find a cheaper solution, they'd probably have a lot more pay phones.

Re:not that much money..... (1)

quiddity (106640) | more than 11 years ago | (#6409238)

which is why you, sir, will never become an accountant. [stop grinning]

Re:not that much money..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6413282)

I'll bet they lose money on the urinals too. Aren't payphones just a form of a public service for those who don't have cellphones?

Those internet VOIP kiosks (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405098)

They are at several airports, and I think Disney World or Epcot had an early version of a phone lounge. The idea is that you get a little room, with a phone and ethernet jack/ terminal that you rent. You could check with one of those places, to see about cost and viability. I'm sure your friendly Cisco or Nortel salesperson would have some info for you too.

Federal & State Regulations (2, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405175)

I would check with your state's public utility commission before making any decisions. Going into the telephone business may require more than just hooking up some hardware.

Look into regulations (3, Interesting)

ComputerSlicer23 (516509) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405242)

I worked for a small company at one point, that was the POP for a bunch of dialup equipment for an ISP based in another city 60 miles away. Since they had dedicated T1 equipment between their two sites, and the expertise to setup voice lines between the two, they setup a voice line that could make a long distance call over their lines for free. They made it available to all of the employees who worked for our small company. A lot of our employees commuted from one city to the other, which is how we ended up with their equipment in our space. One of the owners commuted, and at one point nearly became a partner in the ISP, but instead he just put the equipment in our racks.

Well, it turns out that, if you over phone service to anyone, even for free, especially long distance, guess what, you have to pay various taxes. Even if you don't make the customer pay, your still have to pay the taxes to the local and state gov'ts.

So in the end, you'll end up doing more paperwork, crapola then it's worth to setup your own phone service over your own phone lines. So your options are pay the phone company to run them for you, or pay them to provide the lines you hook up to your own phone. I'm not sure what the cost of buying a pay phone is, or what the cost of a business phone in your are is (it's about $50-75 a month here). So if you think the phones will average less then $75-$100 a month in damage, it's a win to own your own phones. If you think they will average more then that, it's a losing proposition to own your own.

Personally, if it was a fixed cost $150 a month, they have to replace damanged phones, your absolutely nuts not to take them up on it. About the only options are to not provide phones at all, or to literally let them use one of your phones, either a cell, or a land line based in an office.

Kirby

Charge extra for safety (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6405259)

With the explosion of cell phones

1. Advertise that your pay phones don't explode

2. Charge a premium

3. PROFIT!

Payphones & Profit (3, Informative)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405484)

Are concepts that do not exist together.

Payphones were originally (way back) introduced so that people without a personal telephone available to them could make or receive calls from businesses or people who did. They were the 1910 equivilent of NetZero.

They never made a signifigant operating profit for the phone company, but encouraged people get an use telephones.

As a payphone owner, you should never expect to see a pay telephone as a potential profit center. You can, however, use it to steer its customers towards the concession stands selling $6 cups of sugared water and program salesmen.

Re:Payphones & Profit (1)

PerspexAvenger (671820) | more than 11 years ago | (#6407415)

But what would I want to buy a program salesman for?

Re:Payphones & Profit (1)

kraksmoka (561333) | more than 11 years ago | (#6412451)

couple of years ago, i read about bell south ditching tons of old payphones, but only because wireless ate their lunch. they used to make a profit on them.

moreover, the phone companies used to not only lease the payphones, but the lines in the walls as well! when the miami international airport tried to get out of its 1980s public corruption deal with their phone provider, the provider threatened to rip out the system, and of course, fed at the public trough once again. . . make no mistake, payphones would never have been so prevalent if they didn't make money.

Work something out with one of the cell phone co's (3, Interesting)

GreenKiwi (221281) | more than 11 years ago | (#6405675)

talk to Verizon, AT&T, etc. and work out a deal with them where you/they provide such cell phone services. They get good advertising... you get cheap phones....

Buy them off the phone companies! (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 11 years ago | (#6406246)

All of the phones that have been removed had to go somewhere. Just buy them off the phone company outright. Buy enough extras that you have spare parts. Without the telco's overhead, it is apparently easy to make a profit on them.

replace pay phones with people with cell phones? (2, Insightful)

donutz (195717) | more than 11 years ago | (#6407701)

The problem is the rent on those 5 phones is ridiculous - we net a loss of over $150 per phone per month. Its a great convenience for the public, but it'd be cheaper for us to have people stand in the middle of the stadium with cell phones saying "here, make a call for free."

I think you're joking here, but I don't really think this idea would be any cheaper. Lets say you still want to stick with 5 phones, so you've got 5 people holding those phones, waiting for takers. I'm assuming you will have a hard time finding volunteers to do this, or even people to volunteer use of their cell phones, so you're going to have to pay wages and monthly cell phone fees. Lets say minimum wage is $6.00/hr, and cell phones cost you $35.00/mo. You'll want to have these free cell phones available for most or all events at your stadium, so let's figure you have about ten 5 hour events per month.

Wages will cost you:
10 events/month * 5 hrs * $6/hr * 5 people = $1500 per month

Cell phones will cost you:
5 phones * $35/month = $175 per month.

$1500 + 175 = $1675 per month, compared to $750 that you lose per month with 5 pay phones.

Doesn't sound worth it to me.

Get some advertising revenue? (2, Interesting)

Smitty825 (114634) | more than 11 years ago | (#6407964)

This may be a good place to get the advertising dept. involved. If you could get a local cell phone carrier to "advertise their service/phones/whatever" at the game by providing free calls to customers (or calls and internet) at each event. You may even be able to make a profit on this service!

Buy some of these... (2, Informative)

vaderhelmet (591186) | more than 11 years ago | (#6408987)

payphones [payphoneproducts.com] and run it all yourself. Sure, for a several of them, you're gonna rack up a decent bill, but for where you work, it should be no sweat, and after the phone bill, it's all profit. Plus, you're doing the right thing.
ooooooooo looky! Some of them even come with a port for you to plug in your laptop. and some come with credit card readers to pay for calls. Options, options, options!!!!

Also try here [payphonedirect.com] , here [payphone.com] , here [yahoo.com] and there's always some good old Googling [google.com] !!! Good luck on your journey to payphone bliss.

Cell-Based Payphones? (1)

imnlfn (140832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6409746)

What I'd like to see is for someone to come up with a box that converts DTMF to something a cell phone can understand, assuming that something like that is actually possible. Not only would that allow me to use a Mickey Mouse phone in my car, for example (also assuming the cell could send ring signals in the other direction, too), but I could buy a payphone from any one of the sites already mentioned, get unlimited local service ($35 per month from Metro PCS, here in Atlanta), and drive around with the whole setup bolted to the back of my van. Anytime I went to a music festival or the like, I could probably make a few bucks.

Already exists (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 11 years ago | (#6412280)

They already exist. I've seen devices (don't recall where, try google [google.com] ) that will plug into a cell phone (not all models, buy the device and the cell phone at the same time to be sure they are compatable) and allow you to plug a normal phone into them. ie your mickey mouse phone.

I have also seen cell phone based pay phones. Not many because they cost something like a buck a minute. (It was in an area where the nearest phone line was over a mile away, a wilderness outfitters) They exist, ask your cell providers if they know anything about them.

Re:Cell-Based Payphones? (1)

edwazere (87203) | more than 11 years ago | (#6423138)

Loads of them exist - Here you go:

http://www.freedom-mobiles.co.uk/bpremicl.htm [freedom-mobiles.co.uk]

You'll probably need to find a supplier in the US, and maybe a GSM provider would be useful too ;-)

Try the office phone (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 11 years ago | (#6412297)

I assume there is a normal buisness phone in some office somewhere. Just put a sign outside it that says office, and people who really need it will walk in and ask to use the phone - let them. Tell the ushers that it isn't encouraged, but those who need a phone can use the office phone.

Odds are you have a first aid station somewhere already, just give them a phone (they should have it for 911 calls anyway) and they can serve phone duty too. Just make sure long distance isn't allowed, which should be cheaper than a pay phone.

P.S. Do you have tdd access phones? I'm sure they are expensive, but I know a few deaf people and I like to remind people of their special needs. It wouldn't hurt you to have one in an office somewhere.

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