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New Zealand Converting Old Phone Booths Into National WiFi Network

samzenpus posted 1 year,4 days | from the superman-approved dept.

Wireless Networking 72

An anonymous reader writes "What do you do with old public phone boxes hardly anyone uses? Convert them into a national network of WiFi hotspots is the answer in New Zealand. While others have converted their old phone booths into libraries, toilets, showers and even smoking booths, in New Zealand 700 hotspots will be live by 7 October with a target of 2000 by the middle of 2014. 1Gb of data will be free to customers of the incumbent operator, others have to pay for monthly access."

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Not the first (3, Informative)

Ravadill (589248) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968609)

Last time I was in Hong Kong many of the phone booths were being used as APs for the phone companies pre-paid wifi network. Seemed like a great idea to make use of their even spread across the city.

Re:Not the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968723)

The man (or woman) speaks truth. The booth is nice as it can shield you from the noise and weather while you find what you're looking for. In Hong Kong you can access the Dept of Tourism website free to get directions, even if you aren't a customer.

Re:Not the first (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44971001)

Also there are free (as in anyone can use them) WiFi hotspots in government buildings e.g. libraries, recreational centers, buildings that house cooked food stands probably using same technology. There are also private WiFi hotspots at the usual locations: WiFi bus, shopping malls etc.
I used them on my last trip there.

Also insanely cheap internet. Saw HK$200 ($30 US) /month promotion for Gigabit out of the subway, further down the street HK$100 for Cable Internet and further down Hk$50 for DSL. Now that's competition at work.

Seems like everything is done under ground (read the text on those manhole covers). They don't put ugly boxes on sidewalk or overhead cables there. The equipments have to survive major flooding and strong winds during the typhoon seasons every summer.

Re:Not the first by 10+ years (1)

xaxa (988988) | 1 year,3 days | (#44971079)

Not the first by at least 10 years.

There was a BT phone box with WiFi near my school in 2003 (in a city in England). Source: [] -- which says they aimed to have 200 by the end of 2003.

WTF ? (0)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968613)

If and when you need a 300-kilogram metal box with a 200-kilogram concrete slab under it for setting up a WiFi hotspot, you're a pretty lousy engineer.

Re:WTF ? (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968625)

They don't want their customers to have free wifi. They want their customers to have free wifi and everybody else passing every day by a 500kg reminder of them not being with the correct operator.

Re:WTF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969329)

Yeah I can say this is a trash idea. In Canada there's a few carriers that offer WiFi at select places like movie theatres or sports arenas. Thing is... everyone with a smartphone already gets data in those areas. It's like they offer it simply for advertising.

Re:WTF ? (5, Insightful)

NonFerrousBueller (1175131) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968715)

You're missing the point. These locations already exist, have leases, power, data, and a visual presence. Hopefully paid data will help subsidise these dinosaurs. I haven't used one in almost a decade; it was before I had a cell phone and wanted to call someone that did have a cell phone without my (then) wife knowing about it. Even then the phone didn't take coins, so I had to go into the adjoining dairy (convenience store) to buy card, which I never used up. I sympathise a bit - just a bit - with Telecom as in our neighbourhood these phone boxes are routinely etched or the glass smashed. I have no idea how they've been making money for the last few years.

They did set this network up as free to use for all in the Canterbury area after the quakes, which I thought was nice.

Re:WTF ? (2)

GTRacer (234395) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969135)

[...]and wanted to call someone that did have a cell phone without my (then) wife knowing about it.

Since you put this out there, I'm curious. Why didn't you want your wife to know? Planning a surprise party for her? Clandestine rendezvous? Buying something without approval?

I'm honestly curious...

Re:WTF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969279)

Maybe he just wanted to play Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons & Dragons with his buddies, without his (then) wife knowing. It's a pretty common thing to keep hidden, especially if you portray yourself as a macho man the rest of the time. It's understandable why he wouldn't want his wife finding out, of course. What sort of a macho man would voluntarily get together with 4 to 8 nerdy, unkempt men and neckbeards, merely to play games with colorful fancy-pants fantasy cards or multi-faceted dice? Such activities could totally ruin the image and reputation of your typical ultra-heterosexual, highly-potent, sports-loving, beer-drinking, steak-eating macho man.

Now, I'm not saying that that is what happened in this case. We won't know for sure until he tells us. But it is a possibility in such a situation.

Re: WTF ? (1)

NonFerrousBueller (1175131) | 1 year,3 days | (#44976391)

Only on Slashdot, where people value their privacy, does a question about someone's personal life get modded plus 2.

I was making living arrangements so I could leave my wife. I'll make no apologies as it turned out to be the single best choice I've made in my life in years. Anyone who's lived through a bad marriage could probably sympathise.

Re: WTF ? (1)

GTRacer (234395) | about a year ago | (#45025911)

I thank you for taking time to reply, and for your candor. Also, my sympathies on the reason for your exit - I hope all worked out well and that you're both in better places now!

Not sure if it's a character flaw or facet, but I'm immensely curious about people's lives, and when a glimmer of personal truth comes out, I latch on.

Re:WTF ? (2)

geezer nerd (1041858) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969305)

No need to sympathize with Telecom. They are THE phone company in NZ, not just the payphone network. Telecom has most of the landline, mobile, and broadband business in NZ, and own the wires they lease to most of the other providers. So, they are not hurting over the demise of payphones.

The Telecom WiFi hotspots have been set up around NZ for a couple of years now. I guess it was a trial. Where I live in Nelson, there are at least two that I encounter often. They work, and they are free to everyone. I have used them several times when out shopping or getting a coffee. And I am not a Telecom customer.

Re:WTF ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,2 days | (#44979391)

Your info is slightly out of date, as telecom hasn't owned or have had leasing rights to most of the infrastructure since ~2011. All they own now are their own NEAX's and DSLAM's in the exchanges or cabinets, and a few fibre lines. Of the services that they do lease out that I know is Unbundled bitstream access from the Cabinets or from exhanges where other providers don't have equipment set up. Currently, the majority of the infrastructure is owned and maintained by Chorus, which was split from telecom in 2011 as a result of unbundling in 2006.

Re:WTF ? (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968773)

PROTIP: if your first thought on reading about a project is "that's so flagrantly impractical as to be absurd", it is possible that you have misread it.

Re:WTF ? (0)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968819)

If your first thought upon reading the GP's post was that he was saying "that's so flagrantly impractical as to be absurd", it is certain that you have misread it.

Re:WTF ? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,3 days | (#44971243)

The objection is not that it is impractical; if there are few phone booths then the project is eminently practical. The objection is that it is pointless. I do not have enough information to know if this is a valid objection either.

Re:WTF ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968775)

Because the system is already in place and the whole point of it is to just refurbish them into wifi hotspots. Plus, those phone booths could double as a anti-rape thing. Only that you have to lock the door real good if they still have locks and use your cellphone to call the cops.

Re:WTF ? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968849)

In spite of the summary, they aren't "converting" them to WiFi. They are adding WiFi nodes to each box. They will still be public phone booths.

[It seems to me, since phone booths are so rarely used, it would also make sense to convert them to free calls. I would imagine that the "income" from phone booths is vastly less than the cost of collecting money and maintaining the coin-feed systems (over and above the cost of maintaining the phone and booth itself.) This would provide a service to people who genuinely need it, increase utilisation with no added cost (calls over IP are virtually free), while reducing cost in net by eliminating collection.]

Re:WTF ? (1)

Kalriath (849904) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968909)

Telecom's phone booths all take Visa, Mastercard, American Express - very few take cash now.

Re:WTF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968885)

Yes, because they went out and added new phone booths for just the Wifi...

Herp Derp much?

Re:WTF ? (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969125)


I love trolls like this one. It's so beautiful to watch all the dorks smugly bite.

Although speaking personally, I could easily get by with just calling from public phone booths when on the move. It costs me more per call to use my mobile phone than it used to cost me (before they ramped up the prices) to make a quick call from a phone booth. (I have 5GB/mo Internet on a mobile dongle plan, but zero minutes, and although I can use VoIP, Skype for Android is so fucking awful it's not even funny. SIPgate's all right, however.)

Re:WTF ? (0)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969439)

That is exactly how I meant it. And lo and behold, already the smug dorks bite :-D

Re:WTF ? (2)

cold fjord (826450) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969155)

If and when you need a 300-kilogram metal box with a 200-kilogram concrete slab under it for setting up a WiFi hotspot, you're a pretty lousy engineer.

Are you suggesting that good engineers wouldn't make use of existing weather protected, mapped, and maintained infrastructure if it suits the purpose?

Re:WTF ? (2)

bemymonkey (1244086) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969219)

Maybe it's not all about the box and more about the old phone lines in there. Not having to put down new wires has got to make setting up a network of hotspots much easier...

Re:WTF ? (2)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969805)

This is about reusing existing infrastructure, not about a practical way to create something where there was nothing at all. Besides, how can you go wrong with a bit of extra space and security surrounding your equipment?

Re:WTF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,2 days | (#44979369)

It's surprising how many people are missing this.

In the Soviet USA... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968657)

They pulled the doors off after a SCOTUS ruling showed that they were a private space with a legal expectation of privacy. Once the doors came off the communications were considered public and OK to record.
I do still miss the less trackable days of pagers and phone booths from a tinfoil hat point of view though.

Re:In the Soviet USA... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,3 days | (#44971105)

They pulled the doors off after a SCOTUS ruling showed that they were a private space with a legal expectation of privacy.

[[Citation Needed]]

Re:In the Soviet USA... (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | 1 year,3 days | (#44976947)

so 3 seconds and google. []

Re:In the Soviet USA... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,3 days | (#44977603)

I found that decision - but it fails to support the OP's tinfoil hat contention. Especially his unnamed "they" who pulled the doors off - because the party that would pull the doors to create a public space isn't the party doing the bugging.

Try reading and thinking next time.

Oh, and further on the issue of phone booth doors... Phone booths without doors were appearing before 1967, and phone booths with would persist well into the 1990's.

also in Ireland (1)

ei4anb (625481) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968671)

Eircom in Ireland do this too, there's one outside the car park that I use when shopping in the town center, very convenient.

Where does Superman change? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968701)

He can't just do it in the open. Everyone will see.

BT have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44968757)

BT in the UK have been doing this in their phone boxes for years. Also, everybody who uses BT for ADSL gets a router box that also acts as hotspots for the public (unless people opt out).

Re:BT have been doing this for years (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968799)

If anyone's wondering, the tradeoff is that (while you're opted in) you get access to everyone else's home BTWifi hotspots and the commercial BTWifi network. It's just a rebranded FON system. You can actually log in to other FON and rebranded-but-FON-compliant networks too.

Re:BT have been doing this for years (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969051)

I always said the best way to protect an open WIFI connection from intrusion is rename it "BT Openzone"

Slight problem (2)

PRMan (959735) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968793)

I vacationed in New Zealand and I only saw 1 phone booth the whole time I was there, and that was in Arrowtown, preserved as part of a mining town. Sooo, not that useful, really, since there aren't any phone booths.

Re:Slight problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969067)

"PROTIP: if your first thought on reading about a project is "that's so flagrantly impractical as to be absurd", it is possible that you have misread it." - Sockatume

Re:Slight problem (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969213)

I don't see how that applies to PRMan's insightful point. Where there were no phone booths, there shall be no wifi.

Re:Slight problem (1)

geezer nerd (1041858) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969393)

As someone who lives in NZ, I assure you there are Telecom phonebooths in lots of places. You may have not been looking carefully enough to see them.

And, also, they would be mainly in urban centers. Arrowtown is not an urban center, though it is a popular holiday spot. Much of NZ is very rural with small communities and they may have never had a booth.

It has been my thought that Telecom embarked on this program to cater to the tourists who come every summer.

Re:Slight problem (1)

PRMan (959735) | 1 year,3 days | (#44972503)

I drove the whole country from Queenstown to Auckland. Now, I wasn't really looking for the things, but I never saw one anywhere, even in Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland. Maybe there was a bank of them at the Picton Ferry.

Re:Slight problem (1)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | 1 year,3 days | (#44975787)

You mention a phone booth in a historical site, so I'm thinking maybe you didn't recognize what the more ahem, "modern" phone booths looked like? They're pretty inconspicuous unless you're walking by them.

Re:Slight problem (1)

geezer nerd (1041858) | 1 year,3 days | (#44975873)

The one I see most often is in downtown Nelson, right beside the entrance to the parking lot that I use most often when I am in town. It is very noticeable, a tall glass and aluminum box with a big Telecom logo on the glass and a sign saying "Free WiFi Hotspot". Hard to miss that one. I also see a free Telecom WiFi network available on my phone when I am in Richmond, though I could not tell you if there is a phone box anywhere near. I never set out to look for any.

Re:Slight problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44977417)

I also live in New Zealand. I could probably walk through town and point out half a dozen to you, in Dunedin.

Re:Slight problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,2 days | (#44979477)

I stayed in Queenstown for a week and they were scattered everywhere around town, from the residential areas through to the town centre.
Though obviously there were more of them in the centre of town.

Arrowtown has the "old" red booth [] that I think you were thinking of . The newer ones were aluminium white and blue [] and a little more subtle. (They used to be a bit uglier though []

Re: Slight problem (1)

MarkTina (611072) | 1 year,3 days | (#44975569)

So just because you didn't see them, means they don't exist? How do you pee?

Re:Slight problem (1)

javaguy (67183) | 1 year,1 day | (#44988117)

I was in the south island last Christmas during the trial. I used the free WiFi in Havelock (a tiny town at the top of the south island), Queenstown, and Wanaka, and I wasn't really looking for them.

Been there, done that (4, Informative)

rgbe (310525) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968823)

I was one of those 175'000 customers who trialled it. And I have to say the speed was reasonable and you can't complain about free WiFi on the street. We were travelling NZ for 6 months and we used it all over the place. It tended to be the most reliable connection you could find, even better than sitting in a café and using their WiFi.

TARDIS (4, Funny)

pmontra (738736) | 1 year,4 days | (#44968937)

I know it's not that phone box model but converting them into a fleet of TARDIS would be far better. They could deliver you data before it has been sent. That's being fast!


Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969071)

I know it's not that phone box model but converting them into a fleet of TARDIS would be far better. They could deliver you data before it has been sent. That's being fast!

Great idea, we should implement this yesterday


MickLinux (579158) | 1 year,3 days | (#44972193)

The plural of Tardis would have to be Tardiai. so that would be "fleet of Tardiai", not fleet of Tardis.

No offense: that post was good, but needed to be retarded.


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,2 days | (#44978959)

TARDIS is an acronym that stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It isn't some pseudo-latin (or whatever) word that needs some unusual pluralisation.


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44972633)

Time to buy stock in a sonic screwdriver company!

Not a good idea (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969269)

Meanwhile, in Sweden:
2007: Converting phone booths to hotspots:,c287332
2013: Telephone booths start to disappear, to be finished 2015:

It is not profitable or useful to operate phone booths or hotspots when 3G is ubiquitous. In Sweden, we have internet access at any time, so there is no need at all for these artifacts. My bet is New Zealand will realise this soon enough.

Re:Not a good idea (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#44970917)

Not everything can connect to 3G, and if - as you say - a difference in 3G availability is the issue, "realising" that they should have wifi hotspots instead isn't going to make a blind bit of difference, surely? Whatever's holding back 3G adoption will have to change.

Re:Not a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44971553)

Everyone I know has a cellphone that supports tethering. This is the reason no person uses wifi hotspots - they are all carrying their own, personal hotspots in their pocket.
Once roaming disappears within EU, my bet is that hotels will stop providing WiFi as well.

In the USA (1)

coinreturn (617535) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969337)

In the USA, they were mostly just ripped out because they were increasingly just places to piss.

Re:In the USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969777)

This is the anyn.
Wifi is illegal in Estonia. They don't have laws.
Phones are right.

But phone booths have an expectation of privavcy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969357)

If you use your cell phone in a WiFi phone booth, wouldn't you have an expectation of Privacy in the USA ala Katz v. US [ ]
Hahahahahahah. lol, hahah, whew... sorry. Almost died laughing...

Kinda of like ... pointless and who cares? (1)

fygment (444210) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969433)

Is it a story if streetlights, hockey pucks, or whatever get converted to "wifi hotspots" so someone can make a buck? This just in: public statues converted to wifi hotspots (if you can afford them), public urinals converted to wifi hotspots (if you can afford them), your genitalia converted to ... really?

A cooler story: NZ government converts phone booths to free public wifi hotspots in effort ensure broader access to internet.

Re:Kinda of like ... pointless and who cares? (1)

rossdee (243626) | 1 year,4 days | (#44970361)

"Is it a story if streetlights, hockey pucks, or whatever get converted to "wifi hotspots" so someone can make a buck?"

This is New Zealand - there are no hockey 'pucks' - hockey is played on grass (too warm for ice) with a ball.

Verizon & old phone booths (1)

fazookus (770354) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969499)

Verizon, an ISP in New York, NY, USA actually did this ten years ago, they were planning on a thousand wifi phone booths in Manhattan by the end of 2003. And they actually did it, I'm not sure how many were actually installed but I used them on several occasions, they worked just fine. And they dropped the whole thing not too long later. Maybe people weren't within range, maybe the technology wasn't up to it, I don't know.

I've got news for you: (1)

drainbramage (588291) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969573)

They were already toilets, smoking booths, and even showers, if you didn't mind golden.

I wanna go there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969679)

I wanna go and fuckng live there!
They all do right in my books!
First cancellation of software patents, now this! FUCK!
What papers do i need to apply there?

Last year. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969861)

Re:Last year. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#44969889)

Yep, even says so in the summary. Way to read.

Cool idea with obvious benefits (0)

water-and-sewer (612923) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969875)

So that's what happens when you have a government run by intelligent, largely science-friendly people interested in judiciously using government resources while improving the conditions for its people.

Sounds great - can I have a government like that? Mine is too busy spanking it while reading my email, trying to undo medical benefit plans, throw doubt on the benefit of vaccination programs, regulate every moment of a woman's reproductive life, and threatening to shut down, to be of much use at the moment. Oh yes, and Senator Ted Cruz.

Hey Kiwis, can I get a long-stay visa for the next 20 - 30 years? I'll be good, promise!

Conversion ... (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969895)

And why not just tear them down entirely? that scrap metal surely is worth something ...
I dont remember seeing any phone booth here for ages -> all dismantled in the early 2000s

1 GigaBIT of bandwidth? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,4 days | (#44969905)

1 GigaBIT of bandwidth is not all that much. Sure, it's free and all, but it's less than 150MB.

Re:1 GigaBIT of bandwidth? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#44970933)

Where the heck do you live that people customarily quote storage in bits?

Re: 1 GigaBIT of bandwidth? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,3 days | (#44971647)

It's not customary at all here (though maybe things are different on an island in the Pacific). Either they are saying Gb to be misleading or they were misquoted.

The death of the cell network is neigh. (1)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | 1 year,3 days | (#44971085)

I can use wifi only 90 percent of the time and just message someone from facebook.
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