New York City converts payphones to free Wi-Fi hotspots

The city of New York is turning its payphones into free, public Wi-Fi hotspots under a pilot program.

The city said it will extend the program to its five boroughs though only 10 kiosk locations are currently live in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. "Additional hotspots will come in the following months," according to a city government blog post, which did not specify exactly when the remaining two boroughs--Staten Island and the Bronx--can expect to get their own payphone hotspots.

The payphones' "military grade" antennas, can provide service up to 300 feet away, according to an article on GigaOM, which noted the $2,000 installation is being provided gratis by Van Wagner Communications, owner of many of New York City's payphones. The city intends to deploy more Wi-Fi hotspots to its 13,000 payphone sites, with payphone companies expected to be responsible for the maintenance and other ongoing costs, said the article.

NYC will initially extend the program though 10 kiosk locations across the city.

Back in 2005, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) halted its two-year-old effort to convert outdoor phone booths in New York City to hotspots, contending--some would say shortsightedly--that its ongoing cdma2000 EV-DO expansion would make Wi-Fi hotspots obsolete.

New York is not the first to use its payphone sites for Wi-Fi hotspots. In February 2011, China began converting payphone booths to Wi-Fi hotspots. In the UK, Spectrum Interactive has retrofitted some 1,800 of the United Kingdom's iconic red payphone booths, turning them into Wi-Fi hotspots.

For more:
- see this New York City blog post
- see this GigaOM article
- see this Engadget article

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