BT expects to invest £2.7m in the city over the next decade through InLink units
Belfast is to introduce nine new phone boxes which provide residents and visitors with free public Wi-Fi, free calls to landlines and mobiles and free mobile charging points, as well as a range of digital services, including local council and community information.
InLinkUK from BT, will provide the units, under a partnership between telecoms giant BT and tech start-up InLinkUK. BT believes that it would provide an expected investment of £2.7m in the city over the next 10 years.
As well as the nine initial units, further activations are expected in the coming weeks, and these InLink services will replace 18 existing payphones, but the red phone boxes will remain.
The InLink service is funded by advertising revenue, and already has more than 295,000 subscribers across the UK. It also offers encrypted Wi-Fi, protecting personal information when connected on compatible devices, interactive maps, an emergency 999 call button and the option to add air quality monitors. Users will be able to access speeds of up to one gigabit per second, which BT claims is the fastest free public Wi-Fi Services available in the UK. Each InLink unit provides more than 1,000 hours of local messaging a year, meaning it could act as a community notice board for the local area.
“As Belfast builds on its growing reputation as a centre of digital innovation, it’s great to see another development for the public and businesses which supports our digital ambition and strategic vision to develop our Smart City credentials,” said Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Deirdre Hargey.
“In addition to this, the technology being provided will offer greater connectivity for the public, helping to increase footfall on our high street, and aid retail and economic growth as a result,” he added.
Commenting on the launch, Christopher Morrow, Head of Communications & Policy at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added: “NI Chamber congratulates BT on this exciting piece of infrastructure that will help visitors recognise Belfast as a modern, forward-looking, technologically advanced city – supporting the tourist and retail economy and helping to attract investment.
“By providing facilities for people to make free calls, access free wi-fi and charge their phones, the InLink service will add much to a city already bursting with creativity and entrepreneurial spark,” he said.