Abandoned pay phone booths all over New York City are about to get way more useful.
This month, the city will begin replacing thousands of them with free Wi-Fi hot spots. The city plans to have 500 by July, and eventually 7,500 of them.
The hot spots will sit atop a 9.5-foot tall box with electronic screens on each side to display advertising. Sandwiched between the sidewalk ads will be an Android tablet that can be used to place free phone calls and surf the Web.
The advertising-supported project, called LinkNYC, is being run by CityBridge, a joint venture between three tech companies: smartphone chip maker Qualcomm Inc. QCOM, -1.96% , networking company CIVIQ Smartscapes and Intersection, which has backing from Google parent company Alphabet Inc. CityBridge says it is investing more than $200 million in the project.
CityBridge says its Wi-Fi will deliver broadband speeds of 1,000 megabits a second, about 100 times typical speeds provided by wireless carriers. Users won’t be forced to sit through ads on their mobile devices to log on and devices will connect automatically after a user signs in the first time.
Free abundant Wi-Fi at those speeds could give people living in New York City, the country’s largest market, a reason to spend less on wireless data services from carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. VZ, and AT&T Inc. T, said Craig Moffett, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson.
We need more cities to follow suit.