Outside a Starbucks on 15th Street and 3rd Avenue, a once obsolete payphone now has a new purpose: it’s an advanced public Wi-Fi hotspot promising super-fast gigabit speed. That’s 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi.
LinkNYC just installed its first of 7,500 NYC Wi-Fi hubs, which will each include a charging station and Wi-Fi hotspot with a range of 150 feet. Eventually there will be a tablet for touchscreen web browsing, maps and access to city services. The first 500 are slated to be in place by July.
Mayor De Blasio first announced the initiative as the winner of a competition to revamp the city’s antiquated payphones in 2014.
The hubs will still work as phones. Users will be able to make free phone calls to anywhere in the United States using an embedded tablet and a microphone. For more privacy, users will even be able to plug in headphones.
The LinkNYC network will eventually span all five boroughs and will be built at no cost to taxpayers. The project is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the City over the next 12 years, and is provided through a franchise with CityBridge, a network of companies including Qualcomm, Intersection and Civic Smartscapes.
The LinkNYC launch is officially in beta mode. Additional apps and services will come “over the next few months and over the next decade.” The organization seeks public feedback, and invites people to weigh in at email@example.com.