New York Transforms Phone Booths into Free WiFi Spots

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LinkNYC, Photo Credit: CityBridge
LinkNYC, Photo Credit: CityBridge

Not only will New York City continue to attract groups because of its endless amount of attractions, it will soon offer the world’s biggest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network. Instead of doing away with payphones completely, the city is transforming its outdated phone booths into at least 7,500 planned hotspots that will offer fast and free Wi-Fi service.

Dubbed LinkNYC, the project was a winning entry in the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, a competition that called for creative ideas to reuse the city’s more than 11,000 public payphones. The service contracts for the phones expired in 2014, so LinkNYC proposed converting the phone booths into hotspots (or Links) that would provide free Wi-Fi to a radius up to 150 feet with one-gigabit-per-second service. Each Link will also feature mobile device chargers and an interactive tablet that will offer Internet access, free nationwide calls and access to local services and information.

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Large advertisements on display in each kiosk will pay for the project. CityBridge, a group of companies including Qualcomm Inc., Intersection and CIVIQ Smartscapes, is paying the estimated $200 million in installation costs upfront and will later take half the revenue from the kiosks’ digital advertising — estimated to be $1 billion over the next 12 years — while the city will get the other half.

The first of the 510 hotspots scheduled to be live by July was installed earlier this month, and is currently being tested. While several meeting planners and their attendees already have Internet connectivity on their smart phones, it will help them save on data plans as well as help international attendees access Internet on the go without having to pay international coverage fees.

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