Iconic telephone boxes to be turned into Wi-Fi kiosks

By Dmitry Sheynin , Jun 30, 2013 06:38 PM EDT

A company based out of Leeds, England called aql has found a novel new use for those iconic red phone booths everyone associates with England: the company will be transforming them into Wi-Fi kiosks to be deployed in and around the city of Leeds.

The phone booths were originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert, who is also credited for landmarks such as the Battersea Power Station and Waterloo Bridge. While they'll likely remain very recognizable, aql intends to make a fairly dramatic aesthetic change to the telephone boxes. They will repaint them blue.

The new boxes will also be "green," said aql - powered by solar panels and designed to be a "low-impact installation."

"We've designed the boxes to house a unique low energy, high bandwidth network, which will allow unmetered, free Wi-Fi access to anyone within the vicinity," said Adam Beaumont, CEO of aql. "We know Leeds City Council is rolling out free Wi-Fi within parts of the City Centre, but we're dedicated to filling in the gaps and to rolling out services within South Leeds to help catalyse growth in the area. The plan is to create an archive of people's memories of important parts of Leeds."

While turning the phone booths into free Wi-Fi hotspots is certainly an innovative way to breath new life into an obsolete technology, users might still feel a tinge of nostalgia when they realize they can no longer walk into the booths as they are locked to protect the valuable network gear inside.

Still, aql says touchscreens will be added to the outside of the booth that will allow users to make emergency phone calls, as well as leave a message in a sort-of digital guestbook.

"These boxes are a great illustration of Leeds' digital ability and confidence and will be another excellent part of the city's infrastructure. They're forward looking, innovative but rooted in strong traditions and are another example of an ambitious young company driving forward enterprise, jobs and opportunity in Leeds."

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