In keeping with the spirit of the season, Telstra will be allowing the free use of payphones from Christmas Eve until December 28th this year. Telstra hopes that “more people would be able to get in touch with loved ones this Christmas”.

There are sixteen thousand Telstra payphones around Australia. The free service will not just be local, but apply to all calls within Australia, including to mobile phones. There are some obvious exclusions: calls to “premium” numbers such as 19xx numbers, but one typically does not call those to say “hi” to mum. Also, Satellite phones are not mobile phones for this purpose. Of course.

It also has to be a Telstra payphone that you’re using, not some other brand.

Turns out there are quite a few payphones around. The numbered yellow circles mark the spots

Various charities have expressed their appreciation.

Raelene Thompson, the Chief Operating Officer at Wesley Mission, says, “Being able to connect with friends and family at this time of year is often just as important as accessing accommodation, food and financial support. We welcome this initiative from Telstra to help more people get in touch with loved ones this Christmas, regardless of their circumstances.”

The National CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society says, “the Society welcomes news of free calls from payphones from 24-28 December, to give people who are struggling financially, the means to contact others across Australia.”

My first thought on hearing the news was: where on earth are there any payphones? The once ubiquitous phone boxes are no longer scattered across the landscape as they were before the advent of the mobile phone. And there are sixteen thousand or more of them? Who knew?

So I took to Telstra’s handy payphone finder website (google “Telstra payphones” and you’ll get there quickly) and followed the link. Stick in an address and you’ll see all payphones in the area on a map. Turns out that in my area there’s one at every local shop.