According to Cisco’s 2013 Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population this year. In addition, there will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks by 2018. With statistics like these looming, it’s no wonder that the City of New York is trying to find a new use for its phone booths.
New York City’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), currently manages and regulates approximately 10,000 public pay telephones. Although usage has decreased significantly, people still use pay phones, and the booths provide revenue from the advertising space, 36% of which goes to the City. Also, public service advertisements that promote various City agencies and programs comprise 2% of those advertising panels.
Plans are underway to convert all phone booths to public Wi-Fi kiosks that will provide service to all NYC citizens and visitors. To date, there are 20 access locations, and they can be used, free of charge, with any Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, tablet, etc.
According to DoITT:
The WiFi Hotspots Project seeks to accomplish the following goals:
- Demonstrate the feasibility of a citywide WiFi plan utilizing the phone kiosk infrastructure
- Support the Administration’s goal of making New York City the world’s leading digital city
- Show the demand for WiFi services through various parts of the City
- Connect people and communities citywide
- Enhance the value of the City’s public payphones
Furthermore, the WiFi Hotspot Project creates no additional cost to the City or the public. Payphone Franchisees absorb the full expense, including equipment and installation, management, monitoring and authentication services, as well as customer service.
No personal information will be gathered and no advertising or promotions will be presented during the Project’s trial period.
The City is planning additional pilot programs in existing payphone locations across the five boroughs to offer enhanced digital services to New Yorkers and visitors.
For more information regarding the Wi-Fi Hotspot Project, consult the Future of Public Payphones – Payphone Wi-Fi webpage and DoITT – Public Pay Phones – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).