New York’s phone booths are about to get a 21st century upgrade. The city government officially announced a new plan on Monday called LinkNYC, which will convert the current network of outdated payphones into futuristic kiosks that offer Wi-Fi, charging stations and nationwide calling for free.
The new kiosks will be built and operated by CityBridge, a consortium of companies including Qualcomm, Titan, Control Group and Comark. The group won a bid to takeover NYC’s payphones with a $200 million plan, beating out other tech giants like Google, Samsung and Cisco, all of which have expressed interest in the project. As a result, CityBridge will fund the new Wi-Fi network, while giving a portion of the advertising money it brings in back to the city government.
Every NYC payphone is set to become a massive but sleek 9.5-foot kiosk covered in digital adds and providing 24-hour service. Each will feature an Android-powered touchscreen with access to maps, and other city services, along with Wi-Fi and free charging for your smartphone.
NYC has been testing out payphone Wi-Fi hotspots since at least 2012, but it looks like this new plan may finally cover the whole city in free Internet. The first CityBridge kiosks should launch late next year, though the entire installation process might not end until 2020.