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Free 1Gbps Wi-Fi Arrives On London’s Streets As First BT Link Units Replace Payphones

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BT Links will offer ad-supported calls, internet access and eventually IoT applications

The first next generation BT payphone is now active on London’s streets, delivering free, ad-supported phone calls, 1Gbps Wi-Fi, mobile charging and sensors that can support smart city applications.

The new kiosks, called ‘Links’, are now present on Camden High Street and will replace payphones on major roads in the capital and across the country over the course of the year.

LinkUK is a partnership between BT, urban innovation firm Intersection and outdoor advertising agency PrimeSight and is modelled on a similar project called LinkNYC in New York City.

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BT Link

Each is equipped with sensors that could monitor air and noise pollution, temperature, traffic and other urban metrics, allowing organisations and local councils to build smart city applications based on the Internet of Things (IoT).

“This is the phone box of the future,” declared Gerry McQuade, BT Wholesale & Ventures CEO. “InLinkUK from BT brings the payphone up-to-date and gives people the services they need and use every day in the 21st century – and the bonus is it’s all for free.

“But as well as the free services – ultrafast Wi-Fi, phone calls, rapid mobile charging and local information – councils and community organisations will be able to use the screens to provide up-to-the minute news and information to local residents. And just as the phone box has evolved, the new InLinks could evolve to use the internet of things, with connected sensors to monitor and help us understand and improve our environment.”

LinkUK and BT will work with local communities and councils to determine the best location for each terminal and it is stressed that this comes at no expense to the taxpayer as all services will be funded by advertising across a nationwide network of 17,500 payphones.

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The classic ‘K6’ red phone box  celebrated its 80th birthday last year. It was provided to every town or village in the land, providing they had a post office. Indeed, 8,000 K6 were installed in 1936 alone, and by the end of production in 1968 there were nearly 70,000 in this country.

There are currently 46,000 public phone boxes in the UK, of which 8,000 are classic red. In London there are 6,783 phone boxes and 602 red ones. In recent years, BT has encouraged local residents to “adopt” their unused phone box for £1 with many turned into art galleries, libraries and information centres.

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