LinkNYC design unveiled; 10,000 payphones will become WiFi hotspots

The Big Apple’s payphones are about to get a modern makeover.

The Big Apple’s pay phones are about to get a modern makeover.

The city’s Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) unveiled the winning bid for its project to retrofit 10,000 phone kiosks throughout the five boroughs into Wi-Fi hot spots Monday and showed off the design of the new units.

In addition to the free, 1 Gbps Internet access, the LinkNYC kiosks will allow people to make free phone calls to the fifty states and be able to use apps on the device’s touch screen, such as maps and news alerts.

Minerva Tantoco, the city’s chief technology officer, said the service will be a boost for New York since it brings high speed web access to everyone.

“By replacing the aging public pay phones … the city aims to change the physical streetscape and the New Yorker’s access to information,” she said at a news conference at City Hall.

The consortium City Bridge, which won the bid and will oversee and fund the project, includes advertising firm Titan, which currently owns 1,900 phone kiosks, Control Group, a tech strategy company, Comark, an engineering firm, and Qualcomm.

The current design, which could be tweaked, is a 9.5 feet tall by 11 inches wide silver kiosk with digital ads on the side and an Android-powered tablet in the center.
USB chargers will be available and international users can use pre-paid cards to make calls outside of the U.S.

Aside from the ads, which are expected to generate $500 million in revenue over 12 years, the city can use the digital signs to push out PSAs or emergency alerts, according to Scott Goldsmith, the chief operating officer of Titan. Those alerts can be tailor made to the neighborhood where the kiosk is located, such as evacuation alerts for flood prone areas.

“The City of New York deserves the best technology on the streets, and that’s exactly what we’ve designed,” he said.

The city aims to roll out the first 500 kiosks sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 pending approval from various agencies. The city said more specifics would be doled out in the future as to the location of the new units. Within four years of initial deployment, DoiTT hope to have 4,000 Link units up and running.

For those who have nostalgia for the current pay phones, don’t fret, Goldsmith said his team is mindful of their historical significance.

“We are delighted to let you know that CityBridge has agreed that we will maintain three ‘Superman’ pay phones,” he joked.?

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