London calling: Big Apple booths bring public Wi-Fi across the pond
The handy LinkNYC booths that were first installed in New York City this January are crossing the Atlantic and coming to London. Under the guise LinkUK, the booths will provide the public with ultrafast Wi-Fi, charging for mobile devices, free calls and local information.
The booths, or "Links," are being rolled out as part of a partnership between BT, which runs the existing network of phone boxes across the UK, Intersection, which is behind LinkNYC, and UK outdoor advertising company Primesight. BT explains that the Links will replace hundreds of the UK's iconic red phone boxes, which mobile phones have made largely redundant and which we've previously seen repurposed as charging booths, smartphone repair shops and work pods.
The Links will still offer UK landline and mobile phone calls, but for free. In addition, and also for free, they will provide Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1 Gbps (which BT says will be the fastest free public Wi-Fi service available in the UK), mobile device charging and access to maps, directions and local services. The services will be funded by advertising on their digital displays, which is where Primesight comes in.
The booths will each have two 55-in (140-cm) HD displays on which public information and the aforementioned advertisements will be displayed. There will also be sensors for monitoring air and noise pollution, outdoor temperature and traffic conditions. BT suggests that this data could be used to provide new smart services to councils and communities.
Needless to say, the booths will have a "sleek, ultramodern" design. They will also help to "declutter" London's streets, by way of taking up less space than the phone boxes they are replacing and being installed in smaller numbers.
At least 750 booths are set to be installed across central London over the next few years.