No one uses pay phones anymore due to the proliferation of cell phones. In an innovative project, New York City is converting obsolete pay phone booths into powerful, multi-purpose Wi-Fi  kiosks that passersby can use to charge their cell phones, browse the web, get maps or directions, contact emergency services or make free phone calls to anywhere in the United States.

The project, named LinkNYC, was developed by the City of New York and CityBridge, a consortium of technology and media companies that have invested $200 million into the idea. The project is expected to bring in $500 million, primarily via advertising displayed on 55-inch electronic screens located on either side of the kiosks.

The first two kiosks will debut next week on 3rd Avenue. LinkNYC hopes to unveil 500 of kiosks by July. Ultimately, the goal is to have 7,500 of them scattered throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Since it is estimated that 11,000 pay phone booths still stand in the Big Apple, the project could grow even larger.

Lightning Fast Wi-Fi

The nearly 10-feet-tall gray kiosks will act as hot spots, delivering lightning fast broadband speeds of 1,000 megabits per second. To put that in context, the Wi-Fi will run more than 100 times faster than the typical speeds provided by wireless carriers. Hundreds of individuals within an approximately 200-foot radius of the towers will be able to access the Wi-Fi at the same time. To protect privacy, users can join a private, encrypted network and can clear their sessions after using the kiosk.

Android tablets mounted within the system will allow users to make phone calls and browse the Internet using the touchscreen technology. USB ports will enable them to charge their portable devices.