Telstra revamps payphones as Wi-Fi hot spots

Australian telecommunications company Telstra has switched on 150 Wi-Fi hotspots at public pay phones around the country.

More than 100 Wi-Fi hotspots have been turned on at public phones around Australia.

Payphones have suffered a slow death since the rise of mobile phones but the technology that caused its demise could be its saviour.

Telstra this week switched on the first of its pay-phone mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, with plans to roll out 1000 free locations by Christmas.

But with a smart phone in almost every pocket, is it necessary?

Stuart Bird of Telstra said it was about providing customers with options.

"People, when they are out and about, they love to have options and that is why we have targeted these particular areas to put these hotspots on where people gather around and like to connect," he said.

Access to Wi-Fi will be free at the trial sites before the network officially launches early next year. 

But the Wi-Fi hotspots almost didn't happen.  Telstra shelved the plan two years ago but had a change of heart after the uptake of smart phones and tablets generated a huge demand for wireless data.

Mark Gregory, a Telecommunications academic at RMIT, said that with more people using the 4G network, it was becoming congested. These Wi-Fi hotspots would free up this traffic and provide a better service.

The idea of using existing phone boxes in inventive ways was not unique to Australia.

Disused phone boxes in London were being put to use as solar-powered charging stations for mobile phones.

Inside there were a variety of charging stations for different models of phone.

New York City was due to convert 10,000 rarely used payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots, providing free Internet access to city residents at the start of next year.

Jennifer Sage, the designer of New York Wi-Fi, said they would be a great addition to the city.

"We think that it is a potential vehicle for tremendous potential for improvement for life in the city and simplifying the street landscape,” she said.

Source: SBS