- The LinkNYC project is replacing pay phones in New York City with free, superfast Wi-Fi kiosks called Links.
- LinkNYC is a joint project of the City of New York and a consortium led by Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs.
- LinkNYC will eventually be the largest and fastest public Wi-Fi network in the world and bring in large advertising revenue.
500 pay phones across New York City will be replaced with high bandwidth outdoor Wi-Fi kiosks by this summer, The Wall Street Journal reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio said 7,500 kiosks would be ready within eight or nine years through the city’s LinkNYC project. The mayor, elected in 2013 with calls to address income inequality in the city, said the initiative aims to provide free broadband internet access to every New Yorker regardless of economic status.
LinkNYC kiosks are called Links. Each Link provides super fast, free public Wi-Fi within a radius of 150 meters, phone calls, device charging, a tablet for Internet browsing, access to city services, maps and directions. LinkNYC is now in beta and more than a dozen Links have already been installed along Third Avenue, giving New Yorkers an early opportunity to try out the Links.
LinkNYC is completely free for users because it’s funded through advertising. According to the official website, the LinkNYC advertising network will provide brands with a rich, context-aware platform to reach New Yorkers and visitors, and generate more than half a billion dollars in revenue for New York City. Currently, ads on city phone booths generate about $40 million a year. The Link kiosks will improve on that by delivering more ads which are visually compelling to passersby and free Wi-Fi users.
LinkNYC is a joint project of the City of New York and the industrial consortium CityBridge, which includes Intersection, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and CIVIQ Smartscapes. Intersection, the company in charge of the overall design and implementation of the project, is owned by a consortium led by Sidewalk Labs and is the result of the merger between Control Group and Titan covered by Amigobulls in June 2015. Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet Inc-C (NASDAQ:GOOG) company, aims to foster the development of technology products, platforms and related infrastructure to help improve life in cities around the world.
The availability of fast and free Wi-Fi to everyone throughout the city is indeed likely to improve the quality of life of NYC's residents and visitors, as well as urban life all over the world. In fact, other cities are likely to implement similar services.
"We have a really incredible opportunity to integrate new technologies into existing infrastructure in cities that can provide benefit to cities, in terms of additional revenue, and for citizens, new services," said Dan Doctoroff, former CEO of Bloomberg LP and former deputy mayor of New York City, who serves as the CEO of Sidewalk Labs and chairman of Intersection. "There is an appetite for our product and we are going to have to work really hard to fill the demand."
Recently Intersection named former American Express President Al Kelly as its new chief executive, The Wall Street Journal reports. Kelly, who spent 23 years at American Express in roles that included heading the global consumer group, brings strong experience managing public-private partnerships to his new role. Helping cities and companies work together is a “kind of model that is going to become increasingly important as cities are looking for ways to diversify their revenue streams,” said Kelly. "We fully expect that other cities around the world will find interest in this kind of capability."
LinkNYC will eventually be the largest and fastest public Wi-Fi network in the world. "We’re deploying a network that’s so fast the most recent iPhone is only capable of using less than half its available speed," said Intersection’s chief innovation officer Colin O’Donnell in a January press briefing covered by Re/Code.
The out-of-home advertising market, which includes billboards, transit signs and other outdoor displays, is steadily growing. That revenue - estimated at half a billion dollars per year - will go to the city. But Alphabet will be able to stream Adsense ads to a huge number of users of the free and fast Wi-Fi service, first in New York City and then in other cities in the U.S. and around the world.
89 percent of Google's revenue comes from advertising, and Google Adsense is by far the most popular advertising network. Google's business model is centered around online ads, and having more people online for more time is always good for Google. Therefore, LinkNYC is likely to boost Alphabet's stock in the medium term.