LinkNYC Tests Free Gigabit Wi-Fi In New York City — Project Repurposes Old Payphone Terminals Into Hotspots And Charging Stations

LinkNYC has begun testing its free gigabit Wi-Fi in New York City. The project has cleverly repurposed old and increasingly obsolete payphone terminals, turning them into fast Wi-Fi hotspots that offer phone charging and many other useful services, courtesy of NYC administration.

New York City is about to have the biggest, fastest public Wi-Fi project on Earth. The city administration has begun testing street-side internet hotspots. While the project is under trial, soon LinkNYC will blanket America’s biggest and one of the most populous cities with super-fast Wi-Fi.

New York City, which has a population of more than eight million people as well as one of the best coverage of LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile internet, will soon be blanketed in free Wi-Fi internet through the LinkNYC project, which is being deployed on the same spots which once offered payphones, now a relic of the 20th century. Each of the “Links” that will replace the payphone terminals is a nine-and-a-half-foot tall futuristic mini-monolith that beams Wi-Fi signals to all, reported Gizmodo.

Today, New York City’s administration opened one of the first public gigabit Wi-Fi hotspots to the public. According to early testers, the speed is “insanely fast.” The Wi-Fi is quite easy to connect to and offers high-speed internet without charging anything. Signing up requires just an email address, and the hotspot allows you to connect securely with a key as well.

Speed tests conducted on smartphones have indicated download speed exceeding 50 Mbps, while uploads happen at even higher speeds. Although these are way faster than the easily accessible and abundantly available LTE network, experts caution that these are just preliminary tests with little to no congestion. In other words, the speeds could take a hit once the LinkNYC is deployed citywide. Moreover, users may experience lag if too many users log on to the same Wi-Fi hotspot. Fortunately, the company behind the project claims it has deployed hardware that takes care of streamlining availability based on the load on a hotspot.

The company that has been shouldered with the responsibility of deploying the LinkNYC project is CityBridge. The media and tech consortium was tasked with devising a plan to deploy about 7,500 such gigabit-speed Wi-Fi units across all five boroughs of the megalopolis. Given the scale of the project, the de Blasio administration had estimated in 2014 that it could take about twelve more years to blanket New York City in gigabit-speed Wi-Fi.

The entire project will involve laying hundreds of miles of brand-new, purpose-built fiber optic cable. The cables will link to the LinkNYC hotspots, which will be placed about 150 feet from each other. The theoretically maximum speed of the LinkNYC hotspot is 1 Gbps, but the exact speed could vary. Each hotspot will have an effective signal radius of up to 400 feet, but owing to the limitations of Wi-Fi protocols, it is advised to be quite near to the hotspot to get the best possible service.

Besides offering free Wi-Fi, the LinkNYC terminal offers a lot of other conveniences. Surfing internet will drain your battery. Hence, the terminal features multiple USB charging stations (two USB ports only. Users must bring their own cable). A large touchscreen will offer maps to the Big Apple and other similar services, including internet browsing or checking email. The screen will also allow you to make free video calls anywhere in the country as the city has tied up with Vonage. Although the functionality is limited at present, developers have been invited to infuse additional services. Currently, two large screen monitors on each side, display advertisements.

Using the existing real estate that once housed the payphone has allowed New York City’s administration to minimize the need for construction activity above and below the surface. Incidentally, if you are thinking of plopping yourself down for a Netflix marathon, LinkNYC doesn’t have any place to sit down.

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]