BT has signed up media and entertainment group Global for a ten-year project to upgrade 2000 of UK’s legacy payphones into digital hubs loaded with small cells.

Andrew Wooden

March 27, 2024

2 Min Read

Teching up the incumbent’s footprint of legacy payphones promises better connectivity and hyper-local advertising in more than 200 towns and cities across the UK, says BT.

For a while now, BT has been replacing what are basically obsolete and unused (for their intended purpose) landline public phones with Street Hubs, described as digital units that provide public wifi, live local comms and advertising, and also provide a boost to EE’s 4G and 5G mobile network.

This deal will see Global convert up to 2,000 conventional BT payphones and kiosks into Street Hubs over a 10-year period starting from 2025, as well as marketing and selling advertising on BT’s 959 existing Street Hubs. BT will handle the connectivity side of the upgrades.

Street Hub 2 units boast speeds of up to 1Gbps within a 150-metre radius, a dedicated 999 calling button, USB ports for free device charging, touch-screen tablets displaying real-time public information from local councils, and screens to open up digital advertising for businesses.

“BT’s payphones have long been an iconic feature on the UK’s streets – and with the way we all communicate changing, today’s announcement marks a further step into the future,” said Bas Burger, CEO - Business at BT (pictured above left). “There are already almost 1,000 modern digital Street Hubs bringing communication benefits to local communities across the UK. By bringing together BT’s rock-solid connectivity with Global’s unrivalled expertise in out-of-home advertising, we can almost triple this number over the next decade.”

Stephen Miron, Global’s Group CEO, added (pictured above right): "We are absolutely delighted to continue our partnership with BT for at least another 10 years. Street Hubs have become increasingly attractive to advertisers, given their striking presence and prominent positioning on the major streets across the UK. Together with BT, we have very exciting and ambitious plans to significantly expand the Street Hub network, alongside some highly innovative solutions for advertisers. BT have been a great partner, and we look forward to continuing this relationship over the next decade.”

Late last year BT set up some more of the newer Street Hub 2.0 models in Newcastle, and it also started encouraging communities to repurpose 1000 phone boxes into things such as defibrillator stations and micro-art galleries.

Charging hubs and free wifi if you are standing next to one may be handy on some occasions, but probably the most useful part of BT’s push to modernise its footprint of phone boxes and payphones is the small cell deployments that provide its EE network with a boost – which especially in congested city centres seems like a sensible use of the old equipment.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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