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Phonebox evolves as digital innovation comes calling

25 October 2016

Londoners will benefit from the fastest free public Wi-Fi, free phone calls and a range of other free digital services from next year, thanks to BT and partners.

LinkUK from BT, supported by digital advertising, will roll out across the capital next year (Credit: BT)

This is thanks to a new partnership between BT, Intersection, the urban innovation company behind LinkNYC, and Primesight, a leading UK outdoor advertising company.

A new service, called LinkUK from BT, will see sleek, ultramodern kiosks called Links rolled out to major high streets across the capital. 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.

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.

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.”

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. 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.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden Cabinet member for Finance, Technology & Growth, said: “Camden council wants to improve digital connectivity and be at the forefront of change.

“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. 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.”

Dan Doctoroff, Chairman & CEO at Intersection, said: “As a global hub for media and technology, London is the ideal city for Intersection to invest in the expansion of connectivity, digital innovation and our business. LinkUK from BT will bring tremendous benefits to Londoners, visitors, local businesses, and international brands and we look forward to working with our partners, BT and Primesight, to transform this great city's streetscape."

As part of the agreement with BT, Primesight will also sell advertising on nearly 17,500 BT payphone kiosks across the UK.

Naren Patel, CEO of Primesight, said: "Link UK from BT represents an incredible opportunity for advertisers to access a unique and world leading digital Out of Home platform across the UK as we work with BT revolutionising their payphones to meet the demands and opportunities of the 21st century. Our partners at Intersection have designed an incredible product that will offer free UK calls, the fastest public Wi-Fi, a mobile charging station as well as tablet which will provide a host of useful information. The Link unit will help transform the streets and lives of the people in the UK."

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”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.

For more information about LinkUK visit: www.linkuk.uk




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