New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) has issued a request for proposals to build a citywide network of free WiFi hotspots. The public communication points will provide free calls to the emergency number 911 and the city information number 311. The winner will install, operate and maintain up to 10,000 public communication points distributed across the city’s five boroughs. These structures will replace and supplement the roughly 7,300 current public payphone installations. The hotspots must be set up within the next four years and will be funded mainly through digital advertising. The plan is projected to bring in US $17.5 million in guaranteed annual revenue for the City of New York through June 2026.
In this context, the three traditional operators have a common interest in fostering better coverage and quality of service. Sharing the cost, will help all three-though it is likely China Telecom and China Unicom have more to gain here than China Mobile. While the plan should cut costs in the long run and accelerate the rollout of 4G, the initial investment will likely have a short term negative impact on profitability.