BT has announced it will start rolling out a free WiFi service with speeds up to 1Gbps in central London as part of the new project called LinkUK that will see digital kiosks installed around the city.
The new kiosks, dubbed Links, will also offer mobile phone charging via two USB charging ports, access to maps and even the ability to make free phone calls.
The kiosks are claimed to be able to withstand extremes of temperature, from snow to heatwaves, as well as vandalism and theft. The tablet embedded in the unit runs on a secure versions of Android, BT added.
The Links units will also feature sensors for capturing real-time data such as air and noise pollution, outdoor temperature and traffic conditions, which BT said could be useful to local councils to monitor their environments.
The kiosks will be funded by displaying digital advertising, which BT said would mean the entire offerings on the kiosks will be free.
BT said 750 of the kiosks will be installed over the coming years in London and other cities around the UK, although it did not specify where.
Many of the kiosks will replace BT phones boxes, but no historic red phone boxes will be removed, as these are Grade II listed.
The project involves two other partners: Intersection – which has already been involved in a similar project called LinkNYC in New York – and outdoor advertising firm Primesight, which has also signed a deal to sell advertising on BT's 17,500 existing phone boxes.
Gerry McQuade, CEO, BT Wholesale and Ventures, said the deal would help modernise the phone box for the 21st century by providing real benefits to those in cities.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Rajesh Agrawal, London’s Deputy Mayor for Business, also welcomed the plans, saying it would be a big boost for the capital's digital infrastructure.
“I welcome this exciting new addition to London’s streets. 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."
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