Spain says adios to the public phone booth

SPAIN’S 16,000 public phone booths have been inoperative since January 1, 2022 after the government declared it was no longer necessary to provide them as a mandatory public service.

Although their use has been dwindling year on year since the invention of mobile phones, it is still possible to find the odd ‘cabina’ on street corners across Spain.

However, their fate is now sealed after Telefonica refused to keep supplying service that cost the telecommunications company an estimated €4.5 million a year to maintain with zero earnings.   

The grey, green and blue booths, although far less iconic than the red booths of Great Britain, have formed a part of everyday street life for four generations.

Public phone of Madrid (Image: Flickr)

The first ‘cabina’ was installed in Madrid’s Retiro Park in 1928 and by the end of the 1990s there were an estimated 65,000 booths across Spain.

They became an object of fear after appearing as the protagonist in the horror film La Cabina (1972), which won an International Emmy Award.

Although many councils, including Madrid, have already expressed the will to remove the now defunct booths from the streets, various plans are afoot to repurpose them for other more useful roles.

In Malaga, some have already been transformed into tiny tourist information points, while In Burgos the booths have been converted into mini art galleries.


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