BT introduces the next generation of payphones in the UK
By Gerry McQuade, CEO, Wholesale and Ventures
It is fitting that in the year we celebrated the 80th birthday of the iconic K6 red phone box1, we also announced the next evolution of our public payphone service.
Subject to planning permission, we'll deploy new ultramodern kiosks called 'Links', starting in the London Borough of Camden, then across the capital and ultimately across the UK. They'll provide fast, free public wi-fi, free phone calls and a range of free digital services.
LinkUK from BT
It's all thanks to a new partnership between BT, urban innovation company Intersection and leading UK outdoor advertising company Primesight.
Intersection pioneered the deployment of Links in New York. They were first installed in January this year as part of LinkNYC.
London will be the first UK city to benefit but we'll be rolling out many more Links to other cities across the UK - at least 750 will be installed across the UK over the next few years.
Evolving the phone box to make it relevant in the 21st century
The Link units are sleek, modern kiosks that will deliver a wide variety of free services including:
- ultrafast wi-fi with speeds of up to 1Gbps (the fastest free public wi-fi service available);
- UK landline and mobile calls;
- mobile device charging (via two USB charging ports); and
- access to maps, directions and local and emergency services.
No cost to users or taxpayers
Each Link has two 55" (139.7cm) HD digital displays. Primesight will sell advertising for global and local businesses on these display and the revenue generated will ensure that the services come at no cost to users or taxpayers.
Benefits for local communities
We're proposing to allocate a small percentage of advertising airtime to non-commercial good causes. And we'll work with councils to determine how to deliver the greatest benefit to the communities they serve.
Less street clutter
As well as providing a far greater range of services to the public for free, the Links will help to reduce the amount of clutter on the street. This is because they take up less space than a traditional phone box and will be installed in smaller numbers than the existing payphones they replace.
BT and the LinkUK partners will work with councils and local communities to determine the best location for each kiosk.
Smart city applications
The new Links will also feature space for future uses such as small cell transmitters and sensors that can capture real-time data relating to the local environment, for example air and noise pollution, outdoor temperature and traffic conditions. This could potentially spawn smart services for local councils and communities based on the Internet of Things.
I'm delighted that BT's Wholesale and Ventures division is responsible for rolling out the next generation of payphones in the UK. When we established Ventures it was with the intent of using creative technology to disrupt markets and generate new sources of revenue and LinkUK from BT does just that. I hope it's a design that will become as familiar for the 21st century as the K6 was for the 20th century.
Read more here: www.linkuk.uk
1 The K6, or Jubilee Kiosk, was designed by renowned architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It was introduced in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and became the first standard phone box across the UK. Of the 46,000 working payphone kiosks in the UK, around 8,000 are traditional red phone boxes, most of them the K6. And 2,400 have been designated as grade II listed buildings.