GRAMERCY — The city started replacing pay phones along Third Avenue with new kiosks featuring Wi-Fi hotspots, built-in tablets and a phone system this week.
The avenue's first location at 15th Street was unveiled on Monday, and the machines are expected to roll out at nine more spots over the course of the next couple of months, as part of the citywide project called LinkNYC, according to a spokeswoman for the service provider, CityBridge.
The company did not immediately provide the locations of the other kiosks on Third Avenue. The first city's first LinkNYC spot appeared in the East Village last month.
Internet users without laptops or phones will be able to browse the web on the kiosks’ built-in tablets, and callers will be able to make free phone calls to anywhere in the United States, while international callers will be able to use phone cards, the spokeswoman said.
Public Wi-Fi is set to be available near these locations by mid January, and the tablets will be fully functional by the middle of February, the spokeswoman said. Each hotspot will be able to support hundreds of users, with a guaranteed range of 150 feet, she added.
CityBridge — which won a 12-year, $200 million contract from the Department of Information Technology to roll out the network — has pledged to make the system self-sustaining by selling advertising.
Wi-Fi users will see ads on a landing page — much like the free Wi-Fi platform at a Starbucks — and the kiosks themselves will also feature display ads.
Dave Etherington, executive of Titan, an outdoor advertising company that’s part of CityBridge, said in a public hearing in 2014 that the model would draw in large companies along with local shops, according to a transcript published online.
“We believe that LinkNYC simultaneously creates a new much larger ad market that's attractive to major brands as well as an affordable and egalitarian one that allows mom-and-pop shops access to the same inventory in ways that were impossible before this,” he said, according to the transcript.
The city anticipates the kiosk network will generate $500 million in ad revenue over the 12-year contract period.
The “beta phase” of LinkNYC’s rollout will last several months, with more kiosks set to be installed throughout that time, a spokeswoman said. By July, CityBridge plans to have 510 kiosks in locations on Third and Eighth avenues above 14th Street, northern Manhattan, the South Bronx, Jamaica, Flatbush Avenue, and St. George in Staten Island, according to a statement from CityBridge.
By the fourth year of the program, CityBridge plans to roll out 4,500 kiosks across the city.