A man stands in a public phone booth on a Manhattan street on May 2, 2014 in New York City.
Spencer Platt—Getty Images
November 18, 2014 10:30 AM EST

The humble payphone is getting a 21st century upgrade. New York City will convert its thousands of rarely used payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots that provide free Internet access to city residents, by 2015.

The 10,000 new kiosks will each have a connectivity range of about 150 feet and and provide Internet speeds about 20 times as fast as the typical home connection, according to city officials. Up to 250 devices will be able to connect to each Wi-Fi network at a given time. The hotspots will also feature free domestic calls for cell phone users, mobile charging stations and city directions.

The venture is being developed by a group of companies including Qualcomm and Titan. It will cost more than $200 million and be funded by advertising displays on the kiosks.

[New York Times]

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