Google-backed Sidewalk Labs to take over NYC Wi-Fi rollout

Sidewalk Labs, the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)-backed urban innovation company that launched earlier this month to improve technology in cities, is taking control of the project that will bring free Wi-Fi to New York City via LinkNYC.

The NYC links are iconically designed connection points. (Source: LinkNYC.com)

Sidewalk Labs leads a consortium of investors that is acquiring Titan and Control Group, two of the key members of the team behind LinkNYC. The two companies are part of CityBridge, the New York City-based consortium that also includes Qualcomm, Comark and Antenna Design. Qualcomm is serving as technology advisor to help ensure the LinkNYC network stays on top of the latest developments in application communications technology.

Starting this fall, the phone booths in New York City will be replaced with up to 10,000 iconic-looking "links" designed by Antenna Design. The links will offer 24/7 free Internet access up to gigabit speeds, which is more than 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi, as well as other services such as free phone calls in the U.S., a touchscreen tablet to get information on city services and free cell phone charging, among other things.

The digital displays will show public service announcements and advertising. Mayor Bill de Blasio's office expects the five-borough ad network could generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over 12 years.

Financial terms of the Sidewalk deal to acquire Control Group and Titan were not revealed, but the participation of Google would seem to help the overall effort. The new company will be named Intersection, and it plans to take its city management strategy to other cities beyond New York.

"Intersection will aim to extend the thinking and approach behind LinkNYC into an array of solutions to help make cities around the world more livable and connected," according to a press release.

Control Group is known for its public interfaces in mass transit, airports, cultural institutions and retail. Titan has a significant out-of-home advertising business that generates revenue for cities and municipal authorities, and it has operated the New York City public phone booths now being converted under LinkNYC.  

In announcing the formation of Sidewalk Labs, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page said that with Sidewalk, "we want to supercharge existing efforts in areas such as housing, energy, transportation and government to solve real problems that city-dwellers face every day."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Wired article

Related articles:
Google X head talks of failing fast, Loon and autonomous cars
NYC libraries to lend out 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots
New York City project promises Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds using up to 10,000 'Links'
LTE to replace failed muni Wi-Fi network in UK city

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