Hubs with free public wi-fi could replace old payphones in Reading

Old payphones in the town centre could be replaced with new Wi-Fi and 5G-enabled screens which can also measure air quality and traffic congestion.

© Credits: Pixabay phone booth

BT has submitted 14 applications to Reading Borough Council (RBC) seeking to replace the old BT payphone kiosks, called ‘InLink’, on streets in the town centre, including Broad Street and Friar Street.

The InLink hubs, which have advertising screens on one side and payphones on the other side, were launched in 2017, with 494 InLink structures rolled out in 23 cities.

They have 1Gbps free public Wi-Fi, free UK calls, including an emergency services button, and USB charging.

The suppliers of the InLink payphone kiosks went into administration and are no longer able to supply units to BT so the company has devised its own new replacements.

The new ‘Street Hubs’ have double-sided 75-inch LCD advert screens, which have all the same features as the InLink payphone kiosks, including the ability to make phone calls, but with better Wi-Fi range and new features such as:

© Pixabay

4G and 5G mobile

Air quality monitoring

Counting pedestrian, bike and vehicle numbers

Measuring traffic congestion and other environmental factors such as sound and light

The planning application states: “Street Hubs have the potential to significantly enhance the provision of local community communications facilities and services.

“It is precisely the type of high-speed digital infrastructure that the government is seeking to support as part of the presumption in favour of sustainable development and a smart city vision.

“It will deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits by providing a suite of essential urban tools/services, including free ultrafast Wi-Fi, mobile small cells, monitoring sensors and public messaging capabilities to the benefit of the council, residents, businesses, and visitors in this area.”

The current structures will be replaced with Street Hubs outside the following locations:

M&S Food Hall, 164 Friar Street (currently outside old Bristol & West Arcade)

The Gym and Savers shop 4-5 St Marys Butts

House of Fisher and Mleczko, 26-30 West St

Card Factory and Boots, 47-48 Broad Street

EE and John Lewis, 108-113 Broad Street

Sainsbury’s and Tortilla, 6 Broad Street

Santander and Costa Coffee, 99 Broad Street

BT has a duty, known as the Universal Service Obligation, to provide a reasonable number of working phone boxes where they are most needed.

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