For Londoners like me, the old BT phone boxes are like a monument in their own right. At a time when smartphones didn’t exist and the basic Nokia 3210 was still a luxury, I still recall using phone boxes to call home.
Today, BT has announced LinkUK — a service that will transform those old and broken down phone boxes into “sleek, ultramodern kiosks called Links”. These hi-tech kiosks are going to provide free, ultrafast WiFi with speeds of up to 1Gbps — the fastest public WiFi available apparently — along with other perks such as free landline/mobile phone calls, two charging ports for your devices and access to maps, directions and local services.
LinkUK has been made possible thanks to BT’s partnership with Intersection (urban innovation company) & Primesight (outdoor advertising company) — meaning it will all be self-funded thanks to advertising revenues as opposed to the tax payer’s pocket.
Gerry McQuade, CEO, BT Wholesale and Ventures, said: “We’re evolving the phone box to make it relevant in the 21st century by offering people ultrafast Wi-Fi and a range of digital and information services entirely for free. 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 also says they’ll be rolling out these kiosks to other UK cities over coming months.
You’ll be able to see the first 100 Links in Camden by 2017, and at least 750 links will be installed across central London and other major UK cities.
London is the second city to get Links; they were introduced to New York earlier this year as part of LinkNYC. That launch had its own set of issues with people lingering around the kiosks and behaving inappropriately — and public WiFi security will undoubtedly be a concern too — so it will be interesting to see how London tackles that.