Shoppers and residents, visitors and retailers in Belfast are set for ultrafast public wifi, free phone calls and better mobile shopping as the city joins a growing legion of UK cities to benefit from the free InLink from BT service.
The InLink service, which will provide an expected investment of £2.7 million in the city over the next 10 years, will now join the likes of London, Glasgow and Cardiff in offering access to these innovative free services – and help to unlock a more connected High Street.
With nine ultra-modern InLink units initially introduced into Belfast city centre, further activations are expected in the coming weeks. The new state of the art phone boxes are replacing 18 existing payphones, offering more space on pavements, as on average, one unit replaces two BT payphones. BT’s iconic red phone boxes will remain.
So what can it do for retail? According to Paul Murnaghan, BT’s Enterprise Division Director: “A key marker of an adaptable high street is high quality, high-speed connectivity, and the impact of better connectivity to support local economic development cannot be underestimated. InLinks provide ultrafast wifi speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1Gbps), the fastest free public Wi-Fi service available in the UK, providing shoppers with a quality internet connection on their mobiles and subsequently increasing dwell time. Secure public Wi-Fi also enables traders to make higher value transactions more quickly and more safely.
He adds: “Technology has enormous potential to provide a new lease of life for the UK’s high streets, which in turn will transform what our town centres are used for and increase Northern Ireland’s overall economic activity and growth. We are pleased that we can now offer these benefits to local people and Belfast will now join the likes of London, Glasgow and Cardiff in offering access to these innovative free services.”
The InLink service from BT, which is funded by advertising revenue to deliver free services at no cost to the taxpayer and local councils, already has more than 295,000 subscribers across the UK. Additional unique InLink features include encrypted wifi, which protects your personal information when connected on compatible devices, interactive maps which allow users to easily get from one location to another, an emergency 999 call button and the option to add air quality monitors to allow local governments to build sustainable clean-air strategies.
Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Deirdre Hargey said: “As Belfast builds on its growing reputation as a centre of digital innovation, it’s great to see another development for the public and businesses which supports our digital ambition and strategic vision to develop our Smart City credentials. In addition to this, the technology being provided will offer greater connectivity for the public, helping to increase footfall on our high street and aid retail and economic growth as a result.”
Commenting on the launch, Christopher Morrow, Head of Communications & Policy at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adds: “NI Chamber congratulates BT on this exciting piece of infrastructure that will help visitors recognise Belfast as a modern, forward-looking, technologically advanced city - supporting the tourist and retail economy and helping to attract investment.By providing facilities for people to make free calls, access free wi-fi and charge their phones, the InLink service will add much to a city already bursting with creativity and entrepreneurial spark.”
Murnaghan says: “At BT, we want to offer greater connectivity for everyone. Digital equality is really important to us, as we want everyone to be able to get online for free, and this project will provide the infrastructure to better help all those who live and work in Belfast. We are pleased that we can now offer these benefits to local people and welcome the support from Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce in our ambition to help make Belfast one of the UK’s most digitally connected cities.
Providing ultrafast Wi-Fi speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1Gbps), the fastest free public Wi-Fi service available in the UK, each InLink also provides more than 1,000 hours of local messaging a year, acting as a community notice board for the local area. These services are provided to the community at no public cost, as the project is funded by advertising revenue.
Matt Bird, General Manager of InLinkUK, adds: “We are keen to continue our very successful roll out of the InLink from BT service to benefit consumers in Belfast. We want to support consumers’ digital innovation ambitions by offering city workers, shoppers and tourists free digital services and help to create a Smart city in Belfast.”
The InLinkUK from BT service is dedicated to providing all-inclusive digital services, one of which is their charity icon on the tablet. A free one-touch lifeline to four national charities, which provides free calls to Childline, End Youth Homelessness, Runaway Helpline and Samaritans. The InLinks are also designed for wheelchair access and offer additional digital services, including for those who have sight and visual impairments.
InLinkUK from BT is a partnership between BT and tech start up InLinkUK.