A new “communications network” called LinkNYC announced plans Monday to turn all of the payphones in New York City into public Wi-Fi stations. The kiosks, which are taller and narrower than the average phone booth but preserve the advertising space, will have “up to gigabit speeds” and charging stations for devices, according to a press release Monday.
New York has been trying to figure out what to do with its decrepit payphones for years. In 2012, the city did a very small-scale rollout of Wi-Fi hotspots at 10 phone booths, and in 2013, the Department of Information Technology and Communications solicited and displayed proposals for redesigning and repurposing the booths into something more sightly and useful.
The network, LinkNYC, is a “public-private” partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, DoITT, and CityBridge, a collective of New York companies that includes Qualcomm, Antenna, Comark, and Transit Wireless (the company that has installed Wi-Fi in 47 stations of the city’s subway system). In addition to being Wi-Fi hotspots, LinkNYC kiosks will also have touch screens for accessing information about the city and will allow free domestic phone calls.
LinkNYC does not elaborate about its gigabit capabilities, and it does not mention that it’s taken any steps to secure a contract with any ISPs in the area for gigabit connections. However, it does claim that it will be “the fastest and largest free municipal Wi-Fi deployment in the world” and that it will be “more than 20 times fast than the average home Internet service in NYC” with a “seamless roaming experience from Link to Link.”
LinkNYC also states that the phone booth overhaul will be done “at no cost to taxpayers” and funded entirely through advertising revenue, raking in $500 million over the next 12 years. The rollout is set to begin in 2015, with up to 10,000 Links set to be installed across the five boroughs of the city.