BT has this month extended the roll-out of their new InLinkUK smart kiosks to Sheffield, Newcastle and Gateshead. The kiosks claim to offer “ultrafast” 1Gbps capable free public WiFi, free UK phone calls, USB device charging and a range of other digital services to help people in the vicinity.
Apparently 7 InLinks are being installed around Gateshead’s Trinity Square, while 3 will follow in Sheffield’s city centre and just 1 has been installed and activated on Newcastle’s Northumberland Road. More are due to follow and BT said that “on average, each InLink replaces two BT payphones.”
The InLinkUK kiosks reflect a partnership between BT, Intersection (LinkNYC) and advertising company Primesight. The plan is that they will eventually replace over 1,000 pay phones in major cities across the UK. At least some of the funding for these kiosks is extracted via revenues from advertising on the large 55″ HD digital displays.
So far 200 InLinks have been installed across London, Leeds, Glasgow, Southampton and the aforementioned cities; with hundreds more due to be installed in the near future. Since the first InLink was installed in June last year, more than 148,000 people have subscribed to their free wi-fi and the kiosks have allegedly also saved people more than £660,000 in free calls, with 50,000 calls being made on average every week.
However we’d take BT’s claims of offering the “UK’s fastest free public wi-fi” with a pinch of salt, not least since we know of other such free networks that claim to be supplied by 1Gbps of capacity and no evidence is provided to support their statement. Equally previous speedtests have shown that real-world performance actually tends to come in well below the headline claim (here), albeit still very fast.
Wireless broadband signals and network congestion are of course notoriously difficult things to tackle in a real-world environment.