BT will start rolling out next generation phone boxes with ultrafast free WiFi in London next year

BT’s new ‘phone box’ to provide free ultrafast WiFi in London

Image credit: BT

BT will introduce a 21st century phone box providing free ultrafast WiFi, free calls and smartphone charging.

The new sleek phone boxes, called the Links, will replace some of the existing telephone booths as early as the beginning of 2017. The roll-out will start in the London borough of Camden. BT says that within the next few years, 750 Links will be installed on the high streets of London as well as other cities in the UK.

Users in the vicinity of the Links will be able to connect to the 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) network for free as operations will be paid from advertising.

The boxes, taking up much less space than conventional telephone booths, will be fitted with 55-inch high-definition screens to display adverts, public announcements and traffic information.

“We’re evolving the phone box to make it relevant in the 21st century by offering people ultrafast WiFi and a range of digital and information services entirely for free,” said Gerry McQuade, BT chief executive for wholesale and ventures .

“London is one of the greatest cities in the world and it’s entirely fitting that it becomes the first UK city to benefit from the Links. But we will be rolling out many more Links to the other great cities across the UK over the coming months as we look to transform the look and functionality of our public payphones.”

In addition to the free WiFi network, users will be able to make free calls to landlines and mobile phones, charge their phones and use attached tablets to check maps and information about local services.

The kiosks will also be fitted with sensors measuring local air pollution, noise and ambient temperature and monitoring surrounding traffic. The data will be transmitted in real time for potential further use by smart service providers.

London is the second city after New York to receive the futuristic phone booths. Developed as part of the LinkNYC project, the boxes were launched in the American metropolis in late 2015. New Yorkers took to the technology in a way the project’s proponents didn’t anticipate. Some users were using the attached tablets to watch porn or browse the internet for hours. Within a month the company was forced to restrict web browsing on the tablets to stop people from hijacking the technology.

BT is cooperating on the project with LinkNYC and outdoor advertising company Primesight.

“Expanding London’s digital infrastructure is a priority for the Mayor, and LinkUK can play a big part in improving connectivity for Londoners and visitors to our city, while reducing street clutter by upgrading and reducing the number of phone boxes,” commented Rajesh Agrawal, London’s Deputy Mayor for Business.

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