On Tuesday, CityBridge—a joint venture led by wireless chip maker Qualcomm and consisting of various tech companies—completed the first of 7,500 kiosks that will form the backbone of LinkNYC, a municipal Wi-Fi network for New York City residents and visitors that has been billed as the world’s largest and fastest. CityBridge is investing $200 million into the project, which will convert the vast majority of New York City’s antiquated and seldom-used public pay phone booths into free Wi-Fi hot spots. Each LinkNYC hot spot will consist of a 9.5-foot tall box sandwiched between a pair of electronic billboards that will run advertisements continually. In addition to taking advantage of the Wi-Fi connectivity provided through each hot spot, users will be able to place free phone calls and surf the web through tablet PCs positioned at each kiosk location. Each hot spot is designed to cover a 150-foot radius and provide transmission speeds as high as 1 Gbps that are roughly 20 times the speed of the average residential Internet connection.
Unlike other municipal systems, which tie advertising into the Wi-Fi connection, the LinkNYC service will be offered without ads, thus allowing users to connect immediately to the websites of their choice. CityBridge and the City of New York, meanwhile, will derive their revenues from advertising displayed on the billboards at each kiosk. Over the twelve-year term of its contract, CityBridge is slated to reap half of the projected $1 billion in advertising revenues to be accrued through LinkNYC, and the City of New York will receive the other half.
By July, CityBridge is expected to deploy 500 LinkNYC hot spots that will cover all five New York City boroughs, with the first hot spot slated to go online early next year. As a CityBridge executive asserted that LinkNYC will “set a new standard for speed, drive pricing competition, and set new expectations for data caps,” a spokesman for AT&T downplayed predictions regarding LinkNYC’s potential impact on the company’s data usage and revenues, declaring: “we view this as a complimentary service.”