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BT Confirms Plan to Rollout 300 Ultrafast UK WiFi Street Hubs

Thursday, September 16th, 2021 (10:25 am) - Score 7,224

BT has confirmed that they plan to deploy 300 of their new Street Hub 2.0 kiosks (formerly InLinkUK) around urban parts of the UK, which offer “gigabit” public WiFi, USB device charging, free UK phone calls, small cells to boost 4G or 5G mobile signals, local information, environmental sensors and a large HD display for adverts.

The first generation (v1.0) of BT’s smart kiosks were first launched in summer 2017, partly to help replace some of their old phone booths. Since then, over 400 of them have been rolled out across 23 UK cities, although not everybody is a fan of having such units installed (here).

Back in June 2021 BT informed ISPreview.co.uk that their ambition was to roll out more than 200 of their new Street Hub 2.0 units to sites across the UK by around the middle of 2022 (here), although today’s announcement said that they would aim to deploy 300 by the end of 2022 (i.e. “over the next 12 months“). None of these will replace the old v1.0 kiosks, they’re all for new sites.

The first to go live today will be in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but their initial build also includes kiosks for Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham, Birmingham, Solihull, and Southampton (subject to local planning). Interestingly, Derry, where some local authority figures – including the Mayor – weren’t exactly sold on the idea, isn’t mentioned.

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, said:

“BT’s Street Hubs ensure that Londoners have access to fast and free Wi-Fi across the capital whilst on the go, they improve mobile signal, and help councils to get vital local information to their residents. The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for many small businesses, so I’m pleased that BT is supporting London’s businesses through free local digital advertising.”

BT added that they’re also gifting up to £7.5m of free advertising space to local businesses through their Street Hub 2.0 units till the end of the year, via the units’ digital screens. Some 5% of total screen time is already dedicated for councils to promote local services, while environmental sensors provide insights to inform community decisions.

As before, the new Street Hubs 2.0 also promise “gigabit wi-fi“, with an outdoor Wi-Fi access point connected directly to their full fibre broadband network, which they previously said would bring speeds of “up to” 1Gbps to users within 150 metres of the unit. In reality this is still shared capacity which, when combined with the variable nature of wireless connectivity, means that real-world experiences will be fast or ultrafast, but probably not 1Gbps.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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31 Responses
  1. adslmax says:

    These look ugly as I don’t trust any public free wifi.

    1. Alex says:

      Top tip: Don’t use it then

    2. Dave Rhodes says:

      Silly boy.

    3. Mike says:

      Use a VPN…

    4. Mal says:

      This isn’t a facilty, is a cynical abuse of telecoms infrastructure to put advertising where it wouldn’t otherwise be allowed and it should be called out as such

  2. Barney says:

    What a serious waste of money. who would use them? If someone wanted access to computer wouldn’t it be better to use the facilities in a library instead of these? Obviously someone might ask “well a library is not open 24/7″… yes, but would you fancy using one of these once it has gone dark?

    1. JitteryPinger says:

      Some people might not have the choice of using one or these in the dark… Many phones are unreliable when it comes down to battery, giving access to basic of features in an awkward situation could be ideal.

    2. Lucian says:

      “who would use them?” – hobos, druggies etc.
      It’s a shit idea, in more ways than one…

    3. Alex says:

      If just one person uses it to make an emergency call and save a life, then it’s worth every single penny.

    4. Stephen Wakeman says:

      When you say it’s a waste of money, whose money is it? I’ll tell you, shall I? It’s BT’s money.

      So if they, as a private company, want to do this, and it offers free services that are at least on the surface, potentially useful to the public, then how is it any skin off your nose?

      Also, which libraries do you speak of? This Government has presided over the shuttering of a vast number of libraries because local authority budgets are constantly being strained due to Tory ideology, as has always been the case.

      So yes, in your opinion perhaps the money could be better spent elsewhere. But it isn’t your money and in no way would you be being disadvantaged either directly or indirectly by the presence or existence of these.

      So you’re just whinging for the sake of it aren’t you?

    5. Alex says:

      Lol. Very well put Stephen.

  3. AnotherTim says:

    Personally I’d rather they spent the money on upgrading those of us with EO ADSL as the only fixed line option.
    However, I’m pleased that there will never be any of these kiosks anywhere near my area.

  4. Jim says:

    Great news for hookers!

    1. Alex says:

      Great point – you can use these to stream rugby highlights…

  5. Meadmodj says:

    It may be useful to read their pamphlet https://business.bt.com/content/dam/bt/business/v2/PDF/Publicsector/Street-Hubs-Brochure.pdf

    The main reason obviously is brand placement and then advertising to pay for it. They are not much bigger than similar advertising units already within our town centres. Reviewing the overall functionality including locality relevant information, fast WIFI, 5G, emergency power, security and outgoing calls only (999, Mum or other) I think overall the benefits far outweigh any misuse. Particularly when stranded or without power when on a day in the city.

  6. Nicholas Roberts says:

    Another piece of hideous street furniture . . . .poor cheapo design. They could have done better than that.

    Looks dark inside – Needs vertical opaque panels on the side walls/roof for better illumination. This would also discourage nefarious activities taking place inside.

    Lets hope the chair is well-secured.

    Best placed in well-surveilled up-market areas and/or in existing facilities that are open 24/7.

    1. Christopher says:

      I can’t tell if this is sarcasm, or you genuinely think the big purple PR stand is what’s being installed at 200 locations.

      If it is sarcasm; well plaid sir. *Chef’s kiss* you got me good.

      If you are being genuine; you are mistaken, the Street Hub is the black box, with a large screen, seen on the right of the picture.

  7. Nick Roberts says:

    Introducing an enclosed public access touchy-feely work station during the height of a infectious/contagious pandemic . . . That’ll go well

    Well if they are santised to the same standard as the old telephone boxes . . . That’ll guarentee zero custom within 2 months.

    1. Kelvin D says:

      Who is going to clean the human waste from these enclosures? Does the advertising cover those costs?

    2. Jordan says:

      The purple enclosure is nothing to do with the rollout. It’s purely for PR and is being used to let people test what the kiosks can offer. Are you really that stupid that you think they would install these big purple booths with an expensive iMac all over the country?

  8. Nick Roberts says:

    Money better spent on the re-location of poorly sited road-side boxes

  9. Aictos says:

    Should be more of them, it’s the 21st Century not the dark ages which most people appear to hark to with their NIMBYISM which I’m sure they be the first to use once they appear on a street near them.

    Besides if it improves both 4G and 5G phone coverage then surely that’s a positive with WiFi as a bonus.

    Plus BT isn’t forcing people to use them plus they’re a lot more useful then the original telephone boxes, who uses them still those days?

  10. Name says:

    What are the 300 locations?

  11. S.G says:

    I still don’t get the “fast”, “superfast”, “ultrafast” labels when describing an Internet connection speed… Can’t we just use an absolute bitrate like the rest of the world?

    1. A says:

      Superfast is 30+mbps and ultrafast is 100+mbps. I don’t really mind it, at least its standardised.

    2. Dagnis Straupmanis says:

      True that.

  12. Jimbo says:

    Waste of money and resources.

    They will be used drug dealers, prostitution,Toilet,and when rains a shelter,gangs, homeless

    BT should put these into local libraries,Job centers,etc

    My local red phone box years ago was used for a public toilet,not very nice when they have used the phone directory as toilet paper to wipe there arse on it.

    1. Derrick Evans says:

      The ‘Kiosk’ is the black monolith with the screens to the right. The enclosure to the left is just for demo purposes. So it is no more likely to be used as a toilet than any wall or street furniture. Given the range of services it enables I think it is a usual addition to the city or town centre by comparison with the average advertising hording.

  13. Percival says:

    Wow there’s a lot of angry people on this website. Thank god BT doesn’t care. Keep it up BT, some of us enjoy having free WiFi when we’re out and about.

  14. Nick Roberts says:

    I get it, local authority run public conveniences close down, BT purple poo boxes take over.
    Isn’t it great being “In touch” with the cummunity

  15. GaryH says:

    I can’t really see anything wrong with them at all. There’s thousands of advertising stands all over the country. If you don’t want one in your quaint listed village then object to that one, eventually those luddites will die off and the local area can catch up.

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