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BT builds phone boxes for the internet age

BT has announced plans to roll out a free London-wide wireless internet and phone service

BT has announced plans to roll out a new consumer digital service across London, called LinkUK, bringing free ultrafast Wi-Fi and telephone calls to city residents and visitors.

The service will use kiosks called Links – which BT is billing as the spiritual successor to its iconic red telephone box – deployed across the capital through a partnership with outdoor ad specialist Primesight and Intersection, an “urban innovation” specialist that has deployed a similar service in New York.

Users within range of one of the Link kiosks will be able to access gigabit-speed Wi-Fi as well as free premium services including UK landline and mobile phone calls, device-charging facilities and access to maps, directions and other local services. BT said the service would be funded exclusively by advertising revenue.

“We are 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,” said Gerry McQuade, BT CEO of wholesale and ventures.

“London is one of the greatest cities in the world and it is entirely fitting that it becomes the first UK city to benefit from the Links,” he added. “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.”

Initial trials of the service will see 100 Link kiosks installed in the borough of Camden next year, with plans to install 750 in central London and elsewhere in the UK over the next few years.

Theo Blackwell, Camden cabinet member for finance, technology and growth, said: “The plans for Link kiosks submitted by LinkUK from BT represent a really exciting step forward. They are proven and popular on the streets of New York City.

Read more about public Wi-Fi services

“If approved, it will mean that Camden is the first council in the UK to host these innovative services. It will be a further step as Camden council seeks to improve digital access and better serve residents, businesses and visitors alike.”

Deputy mayor for business Rajesh Agrawal added: “London is already widely regarded as one of the technological capitals of the world, and the mayor is determined to improve connectivity across the city to ensure we maintain that position.”

The kiosks, which will replace telephone boxes in a number of locations, will also host environmental sensors to capture data on air and noise pollution, temperatures and traffic conditions, opening up new service options for Camden and other councils.

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