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Telecommunications Switzerland calls time on phone booths

Phone boxes

Sign of the times: a Swisscom box in Lausanne in 2017. It had been converted into a book exchange

(Keystone)

The last telephone box in French-speaking Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva, was dismantled on Thursday. Swisscom will remove the last one in the country – in Baden, northern Switzerland – on November 28. 

An era in the history of Swiss telecommunications is thus coming to an end, an era that witnessed millions of declarations of love, tears and banal conversations in the little cabins that once stood on almost every street corner. 

Swisscom said it wanted to mark the occasion, adding that the booth from Baden would be transplanted to the Museum of Communicationexternal link in Bern. 

On the move 

The first box was installed in 1881 in the Fraumünster post office in Zurich. Peak booth was reached in 1995, when more than 58,000 could be found dotted around Swiss villages and cities. 

However, the success of mobile phones at the end of the 1990s heralded the decline of telephone booths. Between 2004 and 2016, the number of calls from Swisscom cabins fell by 95%. 

In 2018, Swisscom’s legal obligation to operate phone booths as part of its basic service ceased to apply. By then 90% of booths had already been dismantled because there was no longer any need for them. 

Since then boxes have continued to disappear, but many have found new uses, for example as retreats in open-plan offices, book exchanges or fumoirs. Putting one in your garden would cost CHF3,500 ($3,550) plus transport.



Keystone-SDA/ts

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