New York City is ready to proceed with a plan to turn its phone booths into Wi-Fi hotspots, joining cities like San Jose, Chicago, and San Francisco that are looking to make free Wi-Fi available to residents and visitors.
The city issued an RFP for the project, called LinkNYC, earlier this year, and today awarded the contract for the work to CityBridge, a team of companies comprised of Qualcomm, Titan, Control Group, and Comark. Titan is an ad company that currently operates most of the city’s pay phones.
The contract calls for the conversion of up to 500 phone booths in all five boroughs by the end of 2015, and 4,000 at the end of four years. Ultimately, the city said, up to 10,000 phone booths may end up being converted.
The City said Wi-Fi connectivity will be available at up to gigabit speeds. Communications will be encrypted.
CityBridge proposes to build towers (rather than actual booths) just under 10 feet tall. The towers will have built-in screens running a set of Android apps. The towers will also include charging stations for personal devices.
The towers will still act as phones, offering free calls within the U.S.
In commercial/business areas, the towers will have additional screens for ads. Models for residential neighborhoods will not have the ad screens.
The cost for the work is $200 million. CityBridge and New York City plan to split revenue evenly, though the city has a $20 million guarantee (a provision from a previous contract with Titan the city negotiated to preserve). NYC expects that the booths will generate up to $500 million in revenue in 12 years.
The city expects to collect data and sell it to advertisers in much the same way Google and other online ad companies operate.
Local reports note that Titan previously included technology that senses nearby cell phones, inspiring concerns the company can track citizens’ movements. CityBridge said it will announce publicly if it decides to incorporate beacons in the new Wi-Fi towers that enable that capability.
Filed Under: Industry regulations