The obsolete, deteriorated phone booths across Ho Chi Minh City will be replaced with modern smart information stations to help local residents and tourists, with the first four of their kind unveiled in the city’s downtown on Wednesday.
The multifunctional stations, equipped with a 47-inch touch screen and powered by Google’s Android platform, provide tourists and locals with a number of features to facilitate their travel around the city, according to VNPT Ho Chi Minh City.
VNPT Ho Chi Minh City, a subsidiary of the state-run Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, has joined hands with the Le Digital Co. to install four such stations in front of the city’s Municipal Theater, Saigon Central Post Office and Youth Culture House, and at 125 Le Loi Street.
The two companies aim to place 200 stations around the city by 2016.
The built-in Google Maps app at the information stations, connected with an underground fiber optic Internet cable system, can help people look up directions or recommend the nearest hotels, restaurants, cafés, and shopping destinations to them in both Vietnamese and English, thanks to GPS technology.
Locals and tourists can also search for information about cultural and art activities and events, and promotional programs in the city, as well as read brief information about its economy, society and politics.
The first four stations have been installed under a pilot program; if it goes well VNPT Ho Chi Minh City will set up a citywide information station system similar to its phone booth system, which is now of little use.
The station also offers free Wi-Fi access within a range of 100m, and allows people to call emergency numbers.
Le Digital and VNPT Ho Chi Minh City will add more features and update the information database during the trial run of the stations, which lasts until the end of June.
Most of the phone booths across Ho Chi Minh City have been either removed or left severely damaged after VNPT officially put an end to the phone card service, the most popular public telephone mode back in the late 1990s in Vietnam, in late 2012.
The service gradually lost popularity along with the rapid growing of the telecommunication market, with charges for the Internet and mobile phones constantly declining.