New York City is planning to replace public payphones with a new communications network expected to “bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers,” for free. The construction of the network will begin in 2015, and the first structures will become operational by the year’s end.

As part of a new plan dubbed “LinkNYC,” the city’s aging payphone system will make way for the deployment of 10,000 Wi-Fi hubs, called “Links,” which will be installed across all five boroughs of New York. In addition to being free Wi-Fi hubs that can run up to gigabit speeds seven days a week, “Links” also offer other services, including free phone calls anywhere within the U.S., easy access to 911 and 311 calls, and a free charging station for mobile devices.

LinkNYC_WiFi LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers, small businesses, and visitors. Photo: LinkNYC, Flickr

The “Links” Wi-Fi hubs “will be funded through advertising revenues, will be built at no cost to taxpayers, and will generate more than $500 million in revenue for the City over the first 12 years,” according to the LinkNYC website.

The Link structures will include a touchscreen tablet interface to help people access city services, directions and other features. The physical pillars will also have digital displays for advertising and public service announcements.

While LinkNYC has said that the upcoming service will offer gigabit speeds, the claim has raised some eyebrows as commonly used Wi-Fi networks do not yet support sustained gigabit connections from individual devices, The Verge reported.

LinkNYC The Link structures will include a touchscreen tablet interface to help people access city services, directions and other services. Photo: LinkNYC, Flickr

LinkNYC does not say which Wi-Fi standard will be used in the Links pylons, but it claims that “gigabit Wi-Fi is more than a 100 times faster than the average public Wi-Fi and more than 20 times faster than the average home Internet service in NYC. Downloading a two-hour HD movie can take as little as 30 seconds.”

According to LinkNYC, the service will offer an encrypted network connection between the user and a hotspot.

“We encourage you to continue to use end-to-end encryption, such as HTTPS, for any sensitive matters or data… The network will also prevent peer-to-peer security threats by eliminating the ability to communicate device to device,” LinkNYC said in a statement.

The LinkNYC project is the result of a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and CityBridge, a New York City-based consortium.