A public-private consortium will be transforming the old payphones in New York City into Wi-Fi hotspots that offer gigabit internet speeds. This will become the largest Wi-Fi network of its kind in the world, both in terms of the sheer scale of the network, and the fact that it will offer access to superfast internet.

Earlier this year New York started accepting proposals on how to improve these payphones which are rarely used anymore since almost everyone has access to a cellphone. The consortium had the winning bid. It will transform these payphones by installing 11-inch kiosks made out of aluminum called “Links.”

Constructions on these kiosks will begin in 2015 and the city claims that the first few Links will be up and running by the end of next year. The city has plans to install over 10,000 Links over New York’s five boroughs.

The Links, measuring 9.5-foot tall, will provide a 150 foot Wi-Fi radius and will have Android tablets built-in with apps that provide access to city services, interactive maps and more. People will still be able to make calls through these Links, and it won’t cost them anything to make a call to any one of the fifty states. They’ll also serve as charging stations for gadgets.

Expected cost for the Links’ roll out is $200 million but with advertising the city expects to generate $500 million over 12 years. NYC will also be allowed to use these displays for public service announcements.

The consortium that won the bid is called City Bridge. It is a partnership between Qualcomm, hardware maker Comark, advertising company Titan and design firm Control Group.

Security conscious people can find solace in the fact that this will be the first municipal Wi-Fi network in the country that will offer an encrypted connection to the internet.

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