New technology signals end of an era for phone boxes

Outdated: Traditional phone kiosks are set to be replaced in Rotherham
Outdated: Traditional phone kiosks are set to be replaced in Rotherham
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Traditional payphones are expected to vanish from the streets of Rotherham under plans which would replace them with a free high-tech alternative offering ultra-fast broadband to everyone, in addition to telephone services and information about the council and charities.

The InLink portals are regarded as a 21st Century answer to the increasingly unused network of payphone kiosks, which have become increasingly redundant with the universal use of mobile telephones.

Plans have now been submitted to install a network of the devices, which are smaller than a payphone booth and use large screens to display information and the commercial advertising which will fund their use, and each could facilitate the removal of two existing payphones, according to documents submitted to Rotherham Council.

The project is a collaboration between BT and technology firms and 220 of the devices have already been installed elsewhere in the country.

However, the choice of Rotherham for the next phase of the roll-out puts the town on a par with big cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle as early candidates to benefit from the technology.

The scheme involves working in co-operation with councils, which benefit from getting information about their services made available in a highly accessible format.

Locations identified for the new portals include outside Riverside House in Main Street, Church Street, Drummond Street, Eastwood Lane, Bridgegate and Effingham Square.

A report to the council states: “We have been collaborating with councils throughout the UK on the installation of InLinks and the removal of non-Listed BT pay phones.

“Since June 2017 we have over 220 InLinks already go live, with hundreds more in the coming months.

“In doing so we are creating a service to revolutionise streetscapes and helping to provide a connected city solution that delivers the fastest and most robust free public Wi-Fi in the UK.

“Each InLink provides communities with an unprecedented suite of essential urban tools, including free ultra fast Wi-Fi, phone calls, wayfinding, device charging, an emergency 999 call button, public messaging capabilities and a platform for future technologies such as air quality monitoring.”

The devices would also attract business rates, providing additional income for the council.

A decision on whether to approve the plans will be made later.