Plan to replace redundant old phone kiosks with free wi-fi and multi-media hubs given go-ahead
Published: Friday 15th December 17
Visitors to the busy and popular bars, shops and restaurants on Northcote Road will soon be able to charge their mobile phones, make free calls and surf the net via ultra-fast wi-fi at two digital communication hubs that were given planning approval last night (Thursday).
The council has approved planning applications from InLinkUK/BT that will see the removal of five decrepit and obsolete phone kiosks in Northcote Road and their replacement with two hi –tech multi-media hubs offering local people free calls and free internet access. An identical application for a site in Garratt Lane was also approved.
These three new multi-media hubs are among 20 that are on the verge of being installed across the borough.
According to InLinkUK/BT their one gigabyte download speeds will deliver “the fastest and most robust public wi-fi network in the UK”, offering speeds up to 85 times faster than “standard broadband”.
This means that local residents and visitors should be able to download a two hour film on to their handset or tablet in around 12 seconds, while a 45 minute TV show would be available to watch after less than two seconds and a five minute YouTube video in less than half a second. Built-in safeguards mean that the units would not allow adult content to be downloaded.
People will also be able to make free landline and mobile phone calls – especially important for those on limited pay-as-you-go plans or out of credit - and also for those whose phones are out of charge. It also has a facility that allows people without phones to dial 999 in an emergency.
Digital screens on the hubs will display local maps and weather information for visitors alongside travel information from TfL about bus, tube and rail services. The screens are also expected to carry local information from organisations like the council, police and NHS, plus commercial advertising which will pay the cost of this free public service.
The units feature two waterproof USB ports which can be used to charge up mobile phones and tablets, including those with the latest “fast charge” technology. This means these latest generation phones could get a 10 per cent charge in under three minutes.
Removing the redundant old phone kiosks should also remove needless street clutter from pavements. The modern replacements are much thinner and sleeker and require a smaller footprint than the phone kiosks they are replacing thus freeing up pavement space for pedestrians.
InLinkUK/BT plans to install around 75 of these new hi-tech units in total across Wandsworth meaning this latest on-street technology is likely to soon be available in virtually every neighbourhood in the borough. In each case they will replace redundant phone kiosks.
Chairman of the planning committee Cllr Will Sweet said: ““We think these new multi-media centres will be a much more welcome sight on Northcote Road and Garratt Lane than the rather unkempt and largely redundant pay phone kiosks they are replacing, none of which features the famous traditional red Gilbert Scott design.
“In planning terms, a less obtrusive replacement fits in far better with the streetscape and will reduce street clutter and pavement obstructions in this vibrant and much loved shopping and leisure destination.
“And to ensure they are not overly conspicuous at night time they will be dimmed so they do not cause distraction.”
Last night’s decision has been welcomed by businessman Obed Yeboah who runs Digilab Tooting based at the Trident Business Centre, and offers young entrepreneurs support and coaching in the fields of computer programming, video production and editing, social media content and robotics.
He said: “I think the new kiosks are a great idea. At the moment, if I needed to make a phone call I wouldn’t even think of using the existing ones - they’re so out of date and the user experience is poor. These days everything’s about the touchscreen, mobile phones, computers - even the ordering kiosk in McDonalds are touchscreen!
“These new kiosks look amazing. They’re trendy, attractive, innovative and modern - and I love the fact they have wi-fi and the screen is so big. This is the type of user experience people have come to expect. They’ll be a great addition to the high street and definitely something that you’d want to stop and use. I love the idea of using it to charge my phone, which I think will be a big hit with people.”