Telecom NZ turns payphones into WiFi hotspots

Dylan Bushell-Embling
15 May 2013
Daily News

Telecom NZ has settled on an interesting way to wring use out of its payphones – rendered increasingly obsolete in the smartphone era - with a plan to convert some into Wi-Fi hotspots.

The company has contracted Ruckus Wireless to transform phone boxes into 802.11n access points.

Telecom NZ has outfitted 12 booths with Wi-Fi hotspots during a pilot project, and is using them to offer free Wi-Fi access. The solution is being expanded to more of its 3,000 phone boxes, the companies said, without elaborating on rollout targets.

Data traffic is backhauled mainly over fixed DSL or ADSL lines, and sometimes through wireless meshing. Users must register for the service, and are restricted to 1GB of data consumption per day.

“Like many operators around the world, we see Wi-Fi moving beyond simply hotspots and becoming a standard radio access network technology that customers like, want and value,” Telecom NZ head of telecom labs Philip Ivanier said.

Telecom NZ is not the first operator to convert phone boxes to Wi-Fi hotspots – for example, Hong Kong's PCCW is engaged in a similar project, some payphones have been adapted in a New York municipal project, and the UK's BT started installing hotspots in its payphones back in 2003.

With Wi-Fi becoming an increasingly important part of mobile operators'data offload strategies, more telcos may follow suit.

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