Google, Cisco, IBM may transform payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots in NYC

Several big names in telecom are considering a plan that would breathe new life into 7,300 payphones in New York City by converting them into free Wi-Fi hotspots.

According to a several reports, representatives from Google NASDAQ: GOOG), Cisco, IBM and Samsung were among the attendees at an informational meeting hosted by city officials to find out details on the planned project. Bids for the proposal are due today.  

The project calls for replacing payphones with Wi-Fi hotspots in all five boroughs of New York City. While the companies can't charge for Internet access, they can charge for phone services, except for 911 and 311 calls, according to Bloomberg, which cited the city's RFP on the project.

The Wi-Fi hotspots will be located in the city's most populated areas and will generate revenue by advertising on their side panels, said the RFP.

This project isn't new. It was first piloted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012 and is now being championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. In 2012 the city said that it intended to deploy the Wi-Fi hotspots to 13,000 payphones and that payphone companies would be responsible for the maintenance and other ongoing costs.

This also isn't the first time the idea of converting payphones to Wi-Fi hotspots has been circulated. Back in 2005, Verizon halted its two-year-old effort to convert outdoor phone booths in New York City to hotspots, contending that its ongoing cdma2000 EV-DO expansion would make Wi-Fi hotspots obsolete.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article   

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