Coin-operated payphones go extinct in Germany

Coin-operated payphones go extinct in Germany

The 20th century has called and it wants its coin-operated payphones back. Coin slots in Germany’s 12.000 remaining payphones will stop working from today, a move by Deutsche Telekom which marks the beginning of the end for public phone boxes.

No more coin-operated payphones in Germany

From today onwards, coin slots in Germany’s 12.000 remaining payphones, operated by Deutsche Telekom, will be deactivated. In a press release the international company announced that from January phone card slots in the German machines will also be deactivated. “With this,” the press release stated, “telecommunications services will cease at phone pillars and boxes”.

Deutsche Telekom plans to slowly remove the remaining phone boxes and pillars across Germany, with the last expected to be removed in 2025. However, a quarter of the 12.000 payphones will be converted into so-called small cells, antennas which boost the reception and internet connection of surrounding mobile phones.

A short history of phone boxes in Germany

After 142 years of payphones in Germany the move marks the end of an era. The country’s first “Fernsprechkiosk” (literally "distance speaking kiosk") opened in Berlin in 1881. Run by the Bundespost from 1947 till 1994, German phone boxes were recognisable from the same bright yellow colour used by the Deutsche Post today. 

As technology and fashion lagged behind in the GDR, payphones remained a large part of public life until the landline became a staple in every home. In Germany, public payphones reached their peak in the mid-1990s, when the 160.000 lines operated by Deutsche Telekom were still used by people when they were out and about.

Payphones were installed not just on busy streets and in train stations, but spread into the countryside, occupying remote lanes and villages. Such was the popularity of the payphone that for much of their lifetime, German phone boxes bore signs reminding callers to “Fasse dich kurz!” (Be brief!).

Today, some old phone boxes have been unofficially converted into libraries, where passersby can browse, leave and collect secondhand books.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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