Marconi's Neptune comes up from the deep

UK telecomms equipment maker Marconi, undaunted by losses of hundreds of millions of pounds and tens of thousands of job cuts, is touting a flash new payphone to New Zealand customers.

UK telecomms equipment maker Marconi, undaunted by losses of hundreds of millions of pounds and tens of thousands of job cuts, is touting a flash new payphone to New Zealand customers.

Alex Marshall, the company’s Sydney-based sales and marketing boss (pictured with the payphone, the Neptune 800), says the product enables web surfing while making a voice call. He says the company has sold 2000 to British Telecom, and is eyeing the retail, payphone and government markets in New Zealand.

Marconi New Zealand manager John Butt says the company has supplied payphones in this country for more than 50 years under the GEC brand.

The latest example takes the humble payphone to a new level. Marconi describes it as a “fixed broadband gateway”. It features a touch screen and keyboard and can be fitted with a USB web cam. The phones can be used for text messaging.

In a demonstration, the screen withstood a rap with the handset, registering the blow as a key press. The screens can be used by retailers to advertise their wares, says Marshall.

“They need to earn $15 a day for a business case to be made for them,” Marshall says.

Marconi is hardly a household name in this part of the world but, according to Marshall, it supplies BT with “20% of its infrastructure”. In New Zealand, Telecom uses its optical networking equipment.

The company’s fortunes have been grim since sales plunged in 2001, leading to the departure of several top executives. Late last year it reached an agreement with its banks and bondholders to finance the repayment of net debt of £2.85 billion.

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