NYC To Launch Free WiFi Network In 2015

Introducing an initiative that could complement and possibly compete with cable’s own WiFi plans, New York City and a group of partners have set their sights on an ambitious plan to develop and deploy a free, ad-supported WiFi network that will reach parts of all five boroughs.  

The city claimed that the coming “LinkNYC” network, which will be launched next year and “say goodbye to the payphone,” will be built at no cost to taxpayers, as it will be funded by advertising revenues. Among other claims, LinkNYC is targeting revenues of more than $500 million over the next 12 years, and will create 100 to 150 new full-time jobs in areas such as manufacturing, technology and advertising. 

Construction of the network will begin next year, with the first structures expected to become operational by the end of 2015. The service will run on up to 10,000 “Links,” kiosks that will provide 24/7 Internet access with “up to gigabit speeds,” programmable digital displays that show advertising and public service announcements, an integrated Android tablet with a directional speaker and microphone, and a tactile keyboard and Braille lettering with a dedicated 911 button, USB charger, and headphone jack.

According to the plan, the LinkNYC network will provide free WiFi, free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., serve as a free charging station, and handle “seamless roaming” between Links. Time Warner Cable, which is building its own WiFi network in NYC, is also looking to add cellular-like connectivity between hotspots through its adoption of Passpoint/Hotspot 2.0.  

Update: A TWC official said the MSO has deployed almost 16,000 WiFi hotspots in NYC to date. 

LinkNYC comes way of a public/private partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and a consortium called CityBridge.

Members of CityBridge include Titan, a muni-focused media company that will oversee LinkNYC’s operations and manage the advertising program; Control Group, a user experience/design firm; Qualcomm, the chip giant; Comark, on board to design and manufacturer the citywide “Links” in a way that makes them durable and reliable; Transit Wireless, which will handle LinkNYC’s fiber infrastructure; and Antenna Design, the team responsible for creating the “iconic physical design" of the Link/kiosk.