Londoners will benefit from the fastest free public Wi-Fi available, free phone calls and a range of other free digital services from next year, thanks to a new partnership.
A new service, called LinkUK from BT, will see sleek, ultramodern kiosks called Links rolled out to major high streets across the capital.
LinkUK from BT is a partnership between BT, urban innovation company Intersection – which is behind LinkNYC – and leading UK outdoor advertising company Primesight.
Hundreds of users within range of a Link will be able to access free ultrafast Wi-Fi on the move, with speeds of up to 1Gbps - the fastest free public Wi-Fi service available.
Other free premium services available from the Links will include UK landline and mobile phone calls, mobile device charging and access to maps, directions and local services.
These services will come at no cost to users or taxpayers as they will be funded by revenues from advertising on the Links’ digital displays.
BT intends to allocate 5% of the advertising airtime to non-commercial good causes to benefit local communities working with councils.
Rajesh Agrawal, London’s Deputy Mayor for Business, said: “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.
“I look forward to working with BT, Intersection and Primesight to see how we can roll LinkUK across the capital, and to explore its future potential.
“London is already widely regarded as one of the technological capitals of the world but the Mayor is determined to improve connectivity across the city to ensure we maintain that position.”
The rollout also marks the next evolution of BT’s public payphone service as hundreds of BT’s existing phone boxes across the capital will be replaced by the new Links.
As well as providing a far greater range of services to the public for free, the Links will bring digital innovation to the streets of London, while helping to reduce the amount of clutter on the street. This is because they take up less space on the pavement and will be installed in smaller numbers than the existing payphones they replace.
The new Links will also feature sensors, which can capture real-time data relating to the local environment - including for example air and noise pollution, outdoor temperature and traffic conditions. This could potentially introduce an exciting new range of smart services to local councils and communities based on the Internet of Things.
Up to 100 Links are expected to be installed in the London Borough of Camden - with the first ones due to appear in 2017. At least 750 Links will be installed across central London and in major cities across the UK over the next few years.
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. 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.”
London is second only to New York in welcoming Links to its streets, which were first installed in January this year as part of LinkNYC.
Each Link will give users free services including up to 1Gbps Wi-Fi, two USB charging ports, a touchscreen tablet for accessing maps, directions and local services and free UK landline and mobile phone calls.
Links will also have two 55” (139.7cm) high-definition digital displays, able to display public service announcements, as well as neighbourhood advertising for global and local businesses enabling them to reach customers at the right place and right time.
BT and the LinkUK partners will work with councils and local communities to determine the best location for each Link.