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BT sets out to enhance UK digital infrastructure with next-generation street connectivity

UK telco unveils plans for Street Hub 2.0 units to help local communities stay connected, boost 4G/5G mobile coverage and bring environment monitoring to high streets

As part of its plan to transform the UK’s streets with what it says will be a future-proofed digital communications service, BT has launched the Street Hub 2.0, which will offer users features such as sustainable design, environment monitoring for local authorities and the ability to boost 4G/5G mobile coverage.

BT began deploying the Street Hub units, previously known as InLink, in December 2019 and to date has deployed 484 of the devices across the country, under its full ownership. These are said to be already delivering a wide range of economic, social and technology benefits to communities and local councils, such as connecting local residents, businesses and visitors to free Wi-Fi, and ensuring people can contact the emergency services or charity helplines in times of need.

Street Hub 2.0 units will be installed alongside existing units to new sites across the UK. Alongside newly appointed hardware supplier Trueform Digital, BT will continue to partner with Manchester-based technology, software and support supplier ADXBA, and Global, the media & entertainment group, as its advertising partner to support the new digital street units.

Street Hubs connect to ultra-fast free public Wi-Fi, with an outdoor Wi-Fi access point connected directly to the fibre broadband network, bringing speeds of up to 1Gbps to users within 150m of the unit. The new units can also incorporate 4G and 5G small cells to help improve network coverage and capacity for local residents, local businesses and visitors to high streets. Subject to local planning processes, BT aims to roll out more than 200 Street Hub 2.0 units to new sites across the UK over the next year.

In a potential use case, BT says that working with tech scaleup Everimpact via its Green Tech Innovation Platform could see air quality and CO2 sensors can be built into the new units. This could provide actionable environmental insights to help local councils achieve their sustainability goals, such as becoming carbon neutral by 2030, a target that nearly two-thirds of UK local authorities have set. Supporting local authorities’ clean air initiatives will lead to improved air quality, in turn benefiting the health of local communities.

For local businesses, the upgraded units also feature an accessible digital advertising function run by Global, BT’s advertising partner. This is designed to support the marketing needs of local businesses, helping them to rebuild brand awareness as Covid-19 restrictions continue to lift across the country.

Each local authority is provided with 5% of total screen time on each Street Hub to promote local municipal services and better inform the local community about developments or issues affecting their area. For example, during the pandemic, existing Street Hub units across the country displayed key public health advice from Public Health England and local councils. 

“I’m really excited that we’re now evolving the service even further with a newly designed Street Hub 2.0 unit, which is more sustainable, while delivering free public Wi-Fi services and improved 4G/5G mobile coverage to local communities,” said James Browne, head of street at BT. “The free digital services provided by our Street Hub units can play an important role in helping to revive the UK’s high streets following the pandemic.

“We are working closely with local councils and communities to introduce the new units to more parts of the country, enhancing the UK’s future digital infrastructure, and bringing benefits to residents, businesses and tourists alike.”

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