Chinese competitors to Schlumberg and Marconi.
Wireless, multimedia models lead output
Posted : September 26, 2003

   Chengdu GoldTel's combination card/coin payphone has a 128x64 dot-matrix LCD with backlight displaying four lines at 16 alphanumeric characters per line.

R&D projects are boosting wireless models supporting GSM and DCS, and multimedia units with Internet and e-mail support.

PSTN-based, voice-only payphones based on coins and cards continue to be in strong supply in Taiwan and China, but wireless and multimedia models are slowly entering the mainstream in both markets. Wireless payphones are being designed to support multiple transmission standards, such as GSM, DCS, PCS, CDMA and S-CDMA. Besides bigger and color LCDs, the multimedia payphones are integrating Internet access, e-mail, SMS and information feeds covering news, weather, travel and advertisements.

Wireless payphones are developed for use in rural areas, where mobile phone subscription remains low. Makers of multimedia payphones are targeting highly urbanized markets, and are thus emphasizing Internet and e-mail connection. Some companies in Taiwan offer optional features, such as xDSL/IrDA/WLAN interface, fax, photo capture, karaoke or thermal printing.

The payphones available in China and Taiwan accept coin or card payments, or a combination of both. Cards supported include IC and credit cards. Several models can accept up to 12 different kinds of coins, and can validate coins based on their diameter, thickness and material.

To extend product durability, one maker in Taiwan develops weather-resistant payphones, while another company uses aluminum alloy for the front panel, steel for the back and aluminum and zinc alloy for the keys.

Most companies in Taiwan and China accept OEM and ODM projects, with buyer specifications regarding housing thickness, keypad materials, extra coin box and remote management system. Buyers can also choose to integrate videophone and VoIP, or add a stand or a touch screen.

Makers forecast a 10 to 15 percent sales growth, mainly on the strength of wireless payphones. FOB prices for basic payphones will drop by 5 percent to 10 percent. Quotes for mid-range and high-end payphones will be stable in the next six months to 12 months.

   The TM3000B from China's Putai Telecom supports GSM 900MHz and DCS 1.8GHz.

Wireless payphones vitalize China production

China has more than 10 payphone manufacturers offering a range of outdoor, indoor, coin, card, combination coin/card, wired and wireless models. Supply will be stable to meet the equally steady demand. FOB price cuts are expected, but mainly for low-end models.

Makers are adding value to their products with new features, while improving their aftersales services. Some companies offer technical support.

Backed by more than 10 years in payphone development in China, the state-owned Guangdong Post & Telecom Technology Co. Ltd (Putai Telecom) is one of the largest IC card payphone suppliers on the mainland, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 sets. Putai Telecom markets its products to more than 10 countries, supplying telecom carriers like Macau Telecom, Pakistan Telecom and Cuba Telecom Ltd. Its list of local telco customers includes China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Netcom.

One of the major wireless payphone supplier in China, Shenzhen Achtel Communication Equipment Co. Ltd produces IC card, GSM and CDMA payphones. The company forecasts a 20 percent sales growth this year and is expanding distribution channels in Southeast Asia and Africa to meet this target, according to market director Lisha Liu.

   Putai Telecom of China has developed an intelligent payphone capable of non-cash bank transactions.

Card - and coin-operated models from Taiwan

This report found four companies in Taiwan developing payphones operated by coin or IC or credit card, or a combination of card and coin. Most of these manufacturers have between 20 years and 40 years experience in the line, and are exporting their products worldwide, mainly to the mid-range and high-end market segments.

Makers also offer wireless and multimedia payphones. The growing supply of wireless payphones is projected to offset sluggish sales in urban areas, which have fallen by 40 percent due to rising mobile phone subscriptions.

Taiwan Telecommunication Industry Co. Ltd (TTIC), a joint venture company of Tatung and NEC, has been making payphones since 1958 and produces 15,000 payphones a month. It has a factory in Taiwan and another in Putian City, Fujian province, China, with the latter factory churning out two-thirds of total output. Its current lineup includes two coin-operated, five card-based and three combination coin-and-card payphones.

Tongya Telecommunication Industry Co. Ltd has installed more than 200,000 payphones globally since it released its first coin-operated payphone in 1970. Tongya introduced IC card payphones in 1990 and multimedia payphones in 2002. It currently has four coin-operated, one card-operated, and two combination coin-and-card payphones.

Established in 1992, Vector Technology Corp. (VTC) makes 2,000 payphones a month, including coin, card, combination card/coin and wireless models. VTC accepts buyers' specifications, including SKD models. The company exports payphones with 1.6mm-thick cases to Europe and units with 2.2mm-thick cases to Africa. A one-year warranty on the PCB is offered, and free spare parts are included with the delivery.

Hotware International Co. Ltd was established only last year, but has released one indoor and one outdoor payphones. The company specializes in long-range wireless communication products and services. Its PH-200 and PH-700 indoor and outdoor payphones, respectively, use Hotware's Rural Call Cabin Application, which integrates payphone and long-distance cordless phone platforms.

   The Tianxin 100 from China's Sidtec accepts IC card payments and has a 320x240-pixel LCD.

Going wireless over GSM, DCS and PCS

Taiwan manufacturers are investing 5 to 10 percent of their annual revenues in R&D, which at present is mainly focused on slowly shifting to wireless and multimedia capabilities in new payphone models. Buyers can expect more multimedia and wireless payphones from Taiwan, but this does not mean coin-operated models will be phased out. Makers are, in fact, further improving coin-definition techniques.

Some of the wireless payphones being developed in Taiwan can support GSM, CDMA or PCS interface. For instance, two of VTC's four wireless payphone models--the VT200FR and the VT200SR--support GSM 900MHz, DCS 1.8GHz and PCS 1.9GHz transmissions.

These payphones are made of ABS and have an external antenna. They can detect up to 12 different coins by material, diameter and thickness. VTC exports its wireless payphones to South America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

In addition to VoIP and WLAN connectivity, six of TTIC's wireless models can be upgraded to support GSM. The company's payphones are mostly for the high-end market, said general manager Tony Yang.

One of TTIC's R&D focus is to improve its payphones' remote adjustment system from the central unit. "Onsite setting adjustment can be very costly in rural and large areas. Providing remote setting from the central control unit will save a lot of time and money for our customers," Yang explained. Design-wise, TTIC's payphones are being developed to endure extremes in humidity, temperature and dust conditions, Yang added.

According to Hotware sales manager Chaucer Hsieh, "Wireless payphones are more practical over long distances than wired payphones." The costs of cable installation and maintenance exceed setup costs for wireless telecommunication systems, he added.

Hotware's PH-200 and PH-700 may optionally integrate a GSM 900MHz/1.8GHz interface. The two models can also be integrated with Hotware's long-range cordless phone network platform. "With a metering converter, the payphones can be installed in areas that extend over 20km to 200km without telephone lines," Hsieh said.

The TYW-561 from Taiwan's Tongya supports GSM 900MHz/1.8GHz and can accommodate up to three SIM cards. The TYW-561 runs on AC power and comes with an LCD with optional backlight. It has a single coin slot and plastic or aluminum and zinc alloy keypad. Project manager Clare Chen expects wireless GSM payphones to raise the company's sales revenue by 10 percent from $13 million in 2002 to $14.3 million in 2003 .

China's Putai Telecom has developed wireless payphones that operate on both GSM and DCS networks. The TM3000B supports GSM 900MHz and DCS 1.8GHz. It uses a SIM card and accepts IC card payments.

Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Co. Ltd, a joint venture between Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group Cwill Telecommunications Inc., has released a wireless payphone based on S-CDMA. Doubling as a WLL system, the WPP is designed for both indoor and outdoor use.

Xinwei has a manufacturing center and R&D institute in Shenzhen and Chongqing, Sichuan province. The company provides telecom equipment to China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, Jitong Telecom, Railway Telecom and Daqing Telecom.

   The TT-1866 from Taiwan's TTIC is a GSM-enabled payphone that reports phone call statistics and revenue to the central unit.

Multimedia payphones enable Web browsing

While more wireless payphones are being installed in rural areas, the highly urbanized areas are seeing more multimedia payphones with Internet connectivity.

"If payphones will continue to be restricted to voice-only service, without doubt market share will gradually shrink. Payphones should also take advantage of advances in large LCD screens and broadband Internet," said Dongbei Yang, Putai Telecom's sales engineer.

Many payphone companies are offering data and video services, as well as other value-added functions such as scheduled advertisements. The HIC3100 Serial Terminal from Putai Telecom, for instance, enables credit card payments and other non-cash banking transactions. The payphone features Internet access, e-mail and scheduled advertisements.

The Tianxin 100 from Shanghai International Digital Telephone Equipment Co. Ltd (Sidtec) accepts IC card payments and offers various information services, such as news, weather forecast, travel information and advertisements. Sending and receiving e-mails and SMS are also supported.

Shenzhen Achtel's DSP-2000 is a desktop payphone with Web access and SMS in Chinese and English displays. It is designed for dormitories, resorts, medical clinics, hospitals, hotels, restaurants or any other place of business wanting to offer a telephone to its clients without tying up office lines with nonessential calls, said marketing director Liu Lisha.

Taiwan's TTIC has four multimedia payphone models that accept payment via coins, IC cards or credit cards. They feature touch-screen user interface, color TFT LCD and network management system. They also support Internet browsing, e-mail, videophone and scheduled advertisements. Buyers have the option of adding a thermal printer, a roof or a stand, as well as interfaces for xDSL, IrDA and WLAN.

TTIC's TIS-204 has a 15-inch touch-screen TFT LCD, a keyboard and a mouse. It runs on Linux OS and has a built-in thermal printer. The TIS-204 accepts IC cards and coins. Yang expects TTIC's 2003 sales to rise by 10 percent to 15 percent mainly because of increased orders for multimedia payphones.

The V-Media from VTC has a 10-inch color TFT LCD with optional touch screen. This multimedia phone has a Pentium III 1.2GHz processor, 128M/256M RAM, 20G/40G hard disk and 10/100BaseT LAN card. Web browsing and scheduled advertisements are supported. Fax, videophone, photo capture, printer and karaoke are optional.

   The TIS-204 from Taiwan's TTIC features a 15-inch touch-screen LCD and wireless Internet access. The payphone accepts coins, and IC and credit cards.

Improving coin-validation mechanisms

Taiwan's Tongya co-developed a coin-validation technology with a Japanese company, and claims to be one of the first Taiwan companies to install coin validators in its payphones. Chen said that up to 99 percent of counterfeit coins can be detected by Tongya's payphones.

The TYT-051 has a single slot for three kinds of coins. These coins are validated through diameter and thickness. The payphone's housing and keypad are made of plastic.

TTIC of Taiwan developed a coin-definition mechanism with an accuracy of over 95 percent, Yang said. TTIC's TT-695 is housed in stainless steel, has a 128x64-pixel LCD, and can distinguish up to eight different coins. The handset's cord is armored and the keypad made of metal.

The PH-200 and PH-700 from Taiwan's Hotware can recognize six and 12 different coins, respectively. The PH-200 has an ABS housing, while the PH-700 is made of 1.6mm SPCC steel.

Coins are electrically identified by diameter and material. Each model has a built-in call accounting system.

The VT200F from VTC of Taiwan accepts 12 different kinds of coins, which are validated by diameter, material and thickness. This ABS-housed unit has multi-language selection, 16-digit LCD and volume control.

   The TYW-253 from Tongya of Taiwan accepts coin and card payments. The frontside housing is aluminum alloy, while the backside is SPCC-SD steel.

IC and credit card payments accepted

Makers have integrated support for IC and credit card payments in their payphone models, sometimes in combination with coin payments.

The TYW-253 from Taiwan's Tongya is a combination coin-and-card payphone. The single coin slot distinguishes six coin types based on diameter, thickness and material. The card reader identifies ISO and IEC cards.

The TYW-253 has an aluminum alloy front case and black steel back, aluminum and zinc alloy function keys, and round dial keys. The coin box compartment is made of 3mm-thick stainless steel and has a double lock system.

The VT700CM and VT700FC from Taiwan's VTC have 1.6mm-thick FCC metal housings. The VT700CM has two LCDs and reads only IC cards, while the VT700FC accepts IC cards and coins.

All of TTIC's multimedia payphones can be designed to support IC and credit cards upon buyers' request. Other 'nonmultimedia' payphones, such as the TT-580, TT-565, TT-595, TT-1865 and TT-695 models, support card payments. Three other payphone models accept coins and IC cards.

The GT80 from China's Chengdu GoldTel Communication (Group) Co. Ltd accepts IC cards and coins, either by separate or combination payments. The payphone has a dot-matrix LCD with a multilingual display and eight functions keys.

They have double-hook locking plates. The handset is made of plastic and a spiral stainless steel tube protects the cord.

   The TYW-561 of Taiwan's Tongya is a dual-band GSM payphone with a single coin slot and a maximum of three SIM cards.

Low-end prices to go down 5 percent to 10 percent

In China, makers forecast a 5 percent decrease in FOB prices for entry-level payphones. High-end models, however, are expected to remain at their current price levels, said Putai Telecom's Yang.

Taiwan payphone makers forecast prices to remain steady for the next six months to 12 months. "Unlike other telecommunication products, this is a unique market where demand is not urgent," said Yang of TTIC. However, older payphone models with few functions may see a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in FOB prices within 12 months, impacted by new models with multiple functions.

FOB prices of payphones from Taiwan are on average $200 per unit for a standard indoor card payphone to $650 for a multimedia system. "Hardware design and integrated software and functions result in the price variations," said Tongya's Chen.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.