New York City Selects Qualcomm, Titan for Free Sidewalk Wi-Fi

Qualcomm Inc., the largest marker of smartphone chips, and Titan Outdoor LLC are among five companies selected by New York City to transform thousands of sidewalk phone booths into free high-speed Internet hotspots.

The consortium intends to invest $200 million creating at least 7,500 kiosks offering free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., and Wi-Fi fast enough to download a two-hour high-definition movie in 30 seconds. The companies will share 50 percent of all advertising revenue, with the rest going to the city.

“The mayor pledged universal free broadband access to all New Yorkers, and this is a real step toward that goal,” said Maya Wiley, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legal counsel and liaison to the project. “This will be the largest free municipal Wi-Fi network in the world.”

De Blasio, 53, the first Democrat to run the biggest U.S. city in 20 years, assumed office Jan. 1 vowing to devote his mayoralty to economic justice. That agenda includes efforts to close the so-called digital divide separating those with high-speed Internet access from those without it.

The mayor made his goal clear in June, when he told a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas, “If we’re going to create fairness and economic opportunity, high-speed Internet -- affordable high-speed Internet -- has to be available to all of our citizens.”

Sidewalk Kiosks

Terms of the city’s deal include a minimum $20 million annual share of the revenue that the consortium expects to reap through the sale of digital ad displays projected from the slender kiosks, which will reach about 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) above the sidewalk.

Scott Goldsmith, chief commercial officer for New York-based Titan, an advertising company, said the group expected to place 500 kiosks on city sidewalks by the end of 2015. The stations will provide Internet signals that can reach as far as 150 feet, and offer users without mobile devices a touch-screen Android tablet, he said. The Wi-Fi stations are intended for outdoor use only.

“It will change the way each of us interacts with the city and with each other,” he said today at a City Hall news briefing today.

Other companies in the consortium, called CityBridge, include Control Group, a New York-based technology and design company, Comark LLC, a design company, and Antenna Design New York Inc., which helped create the kiosks.

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