A 2.7m tall, narrow structure installed this past week on a Manhattan sidewalk is signaling a plan to turn payphones into what is billed as the world’s largest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network.
The first of at least 7,500 planned hotspots are due to go online early next year, promising superfast and free Wi-Fi service, new street telephones with free calling, ports to charge mobile phones and a no-cost windfall for the city.
With some cities nationwide making renewed pushes for public Wi-Fi after an earlier wave of enthusiasm faded, New York officials said their project is democratizing data access while modernizing outmoded street telephones.
For now, the first hotspot is still being tested and sits under a gray cover, but some passers-by like the sound of what is in store.
“It’s always helpful to have Wi-Fi to reduce the bite that apps and Web-surfing take out of cellular data service, which is capped in many consumers’ plans,” Jack Thomas said this week while texting near the dormant kiosk.
However, others have qualms about New Yorkers linking their devices to a public network as they stroll down the street, though the city has said data is to be encrypted and any information harvested for advertising is to be anatomized.
“I think it makes us all more vulnerable to wrongdoers,” Bee Mosca said as she eyed the future hotspot.
Payphones might seem like telecom relics when 68 percent of Americans own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center on Internet, Science & Technology, but about 8,200 payphones still dot New York streets.
Some were pressed into service amid outages after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but their numbers and usage have declined overall, and 37 percent of those inspected last year were inoperable.
The city experimented with providing Wi-Fi from a few payphones in 2012, then hatched the current, eight-year “LinkNYC” plan.
A consortium of companies, including wireless technology player Qualcomm Inc, is to pay the estimated US$200 million installation cost and take half the revenue from the kiosks’ digital advertising, projected at US$1 billion over 12 years. The city gets the other half, more than doubling the US$17 million a year it gets from payphones now.
Each hotspot covers about a 45m radius with what is pledged as one-gigabit-per-second service, about 20 times the speed of average home Internet service. Officials have said the service is intended for outdoor use; it is not clear whether it might extend inside some businesses and homes.
Though many Americans now carry Internet connectivity in their pockets, the network “can be a win for users who can save on their data plans, and it can be a win for [cellular] networks if they’re really overtaxed,” said Erik Stallman, general counsel of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group that advocates for Internet liberties and access.
Tourists without local cellular service also could benefit, National Consumers League vice president John Breyault said.
LinkNYC is not without opponents: A payphone company has sued the city, saying it created a monopoly for the new consortium. The city has said it believes the arrangement is legal.
Many US cities strove to cover themselves in Wi-Fi in the early 2000s, but a number of plans foundered as home access proliferated, usage and advertising revenues disappointed and some Internet service providers complained the city networks were unfair competitors.
However, some cities have recently recast and reinvigorated their efforts. Boston is working to expand a “Wicked Free Wi-Fi” network with over 170 hotspots and Los Angeles is encouraging private companies to provide free basic wireless to all homes and businesses, with outdoor coverage as a goal.
Still, some question whether it is wise for city governments to get into offering Wi-Fi, rather than leaving it to businesses.
‘BIG LOSS’: This year might see the last generation of Huawei’s Kirin chips, as their production would stop next month because they are made using US technology Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co (華為) is running out of processor chips to make smartphones due to US sanctions and would be forced to stop production of its own most advanced chips, a company executive has said, in a sign of growing damage to Huawei’s business from US pressure. Huawei, one of the biggest producers of smartphones and network equipment, is at the center of US-Chinese tension over technology and security. Washington last year cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology, and those penalties were tightened in May, when the White House barred vendors worldwide from using US
’WHITE BOX’: The open platform would give local firms access to Cisco’s cloud-based mobile network to develop 5G telecom equipment and tap into the global market The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday introduced a new 5G “open lab” in collaboration with US-based information technology and networking giant Cisco Systems Inc to address the rapidly growing “white box” 5G networking equipment market. The open lab will be a platform where Taiwanese manufacturers can access Cisco’s cloud-based mobile network to develop their own 5G telecom equipment, such as small-cell base stations, network switches, modems and Internet of things (IoT) devices, a ministry statement said. The open platform would allow Taiwanese manufacturers to tap into the lucrative 5G telecom equipment market, which was previously monopolized by Nokia Oyj, Ericsson AB
CORPORATE SCANDAL: Cathay Life has invested NT$13.3 billion in Bank Mayapada since 2015, but the latest loss of NT$8.8 billion has completely written off its investment Cathay Life Insurance Co (國泰人壽) yesterday said it would recognize an investment loss of NT$8.8 billion (US$298.1 million) in Indonesia’s Bank Mayapada Internasional Tbk PT due to concerns about the lender’s operations amid a corporate scandal. The company said it would revise its earnings result for June, from a net profit of NT$6.52 billion to a net loss of NT$520 million, its first monthly loss over the past 17 months. After booking an investment loss of NT$5.2 billion in Bank Mayapada earlier this year, Cathay Life has so far recognized total investment losses of NT$14 billion in the lender, executive vice president
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday reported that revenue last month expanded 25 percent annually, but fell 12.8 percent month-on-month to NT$105.96 billion (US$3.59 billion). In the first seven months of this year, the chipmaker’s revenue surged 33.6 percent to NT$727.26 billion, compared with NT$544.46 billion a year earlier. TSMC has said it aims to grow its revenue by more than 20 percent this year. The company has since May 15 stopped taking new orders from Huawei Technologies Co (華為), its second-biggest customer after Apple Inc, due to the US’ restrictions on exports containing US technologies. TSMC has no plans to