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Brief Published: 21 Nov 2014

New York’s Free Wi-Fi Hubs


Old payphones in New York City will soon be converted into free public wi-fi hubs, thanks to a new initiative from the city's authorities.

The hubs will also provide free domestic calls, and come equipped with a charging station for mobile phones, and a "touchscreen tablet interface" for users to check city maps and look up transport information on the move.

Each wi-fi station will be free to use and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Internet speeds will be up to 20 times quicker than the average domestic connection.

The scheme, called LinkNYC, will be entirely funded through advertising revenue; the hubs will have a large LCD screen built into the side for displaying promotions. Organisers aim to install 10,000 hubs, with the first coming online in 2015. City planners expect LinkNYC to generate $500m in revenue in the first 12 years – offsetting the estimated $200m installation cost.

Being busy is now a status symbol among many consumers, and smart brands are positioning themselves as enablers of an on-the-go lifestyle. Retail heavyweights such as US fashion retailer Urban Outfitters and coffee giant Starbucks are installing in-store phone-charging stations to boost dwell time. Others are experimenting with next-gen vending machines, targeting time-starved commuters. See Battling Busyness and Commuter Commerce, part of our Roaming Retail Industry Trend, for more.

For more on how governments, brands and citizens are harnessing new technologies to make cities cleaner, safer and more convenient, take a look at our report from last year's Re.Work Cities conference.