Wandsworth residents can now charge their mobile phones, make free calls and surf the net via ultra-fast wi-fi at a network of digital communication hubs across the borough.
Initially 22 new InLinks multi-media hubs are being installed across Wandsworth as direct replacements for 44 obsolete payphone kiosks, and more are planned for the coming months. This week saw the first ones switched on and fully activated.
They offer local people free calls and access to free ultra-fast wi-fi (1(Gbps) and according to InLinkUK the download speeds deliver “the fastest and most robust public wi-fi network in the UK”, offering speeds up to 85 times faster than “standard broadband”.
This means that in optimal conditions people will be able to download a two hour film on to a handset or tablet in around 12 seconds, while a 45 minute TV show would be available to watch after less than two seconds and a five minute YouTube video in less than half a second. Built-in safeguards mean the units don’t allow adult content to be downloaded.
People can also make free landline and mobile phone calls via an integrated touchscreen – especially important for those on limited pay-as-you-go plans or out of credit - and also for those whose phones are out of charge. It also has a dedicated emergency button that allows people without phones to call 999.
Digital screens display local maps and weather information, alongside travel information about local bus, tube and rail services. The screens are also expected to carry local information from organisations like the council and the police as well as community content. Some commercial advertising will also be shown to meet the cost of providing this free public service.
The units also feature two waterproof USB ports which can be used to charge up mobile phones and tablets, including those with the latest “fast charge” technology. This means these latest generation phones could get a ten per cent charge in under three minutes.
Removing obsolete old phone kiosks also means less street clutter on pavements. The modern replacements are much thinner and sleeker and require a smaller footprint than the kiosks they are replacing thus freeing up more pavement space for pedestrians.
The InLinkUK from BT communications service is planning to install around 75 of these new hi-tech units in total across Wandsworth meaning this latest on-street technology could soon be available in virtually every neighbourhood in the borough. In each case they will replace two redundant BT payphone kiosks.
Community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “These impressive multi-media hubs offer the public a really excellent range of free services and I am delighted they’ve arrived in Wandsworth.
“Their introduction means that residents and visitors to our borough can now enjoy free phone calls, free mega-fast wi-fi and access to travel updates, maps, local guides plus wide ranging information on local public services.
“I checked the download speed on one in Clapham Junction yesterday and was amazed at how fast it was. It frankly dwarfed anything that most residents and businesses will be used to.
“Their sleek, slim, aluminium-style design are a much more useful and attractive sight than the now largely redundant pay phone kiosks they are replacing, none of which are of the famous traditional red Gilbert Scott design. And with every single InLink hub replacing two payphone kiosks it also means a lot less clutter on pour streets.”
Neil Scoresby, BT’s general manager for Payphones and InLinkUK said: “It’s great news that we’ve started to roll-out the next generation phone box in Wandsworth. The digital services will make a big difference for people on-the-go who all need information quickly whether they live there or are visiting this borough and want to discover more about it. Charging points, free phone calls, ultrafast Wi-Fi, maps and local information will all be well-used I’m sure.”