Swansea becomes first Welsh city to benefit from free ultrafast wi-fi and phone calls
Swansea has become the first city in Wales to benefit from the free InLinkUK from BT service, which already has more than 148,000 subscribers across the UK. It offers the UK’s fastest free public wi-fi plus a range of digital services, including local council and community information.
The first 11 InLinks have been installed in and around Swansea’s city centre and will provide ultrafast wi-fi speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1Gbps), the fastest free public wi-fi service available in the UK. The InLinks also provide free phone calls to UK landlines and mobiles, rapid mobile device charging, the BT Phone Book app, as well as easy access to charity helplines.
InLinks mean more space on pavements, as on average, each InLink replaces two BT payphones, and with 12 InLinks planned to be installed in Swansea, around 24 payphones are set to be removed in the city. BT’s iconic red phone boxes will remain.
The first of the fully-accessible InLinks have recently gone live on Princess Way and Castle Street, with further activations expected in the coming weeks. BT and it's partner InLinkUK have worked closely with stakeholders in Wales to ensure that the new InLinks will support both Welsh and English languages, with the screens showcasing dual language community information at launch, with the tablet to follow shortly.
Swansea’s local community are also benefiting from the InLink’s digital screens that display real-time information, including local events and interesting facts, as well as community messaging. Each InLink 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.
Swansea Council leader Cllr Rob Stewart said: “This is great news for the public and local businesses. The exciting addition of the InLinks - with their free high-speed public wi-fi - to Swansea’s streets matches perfectly our ongoing work to transform the city centre into a vibrant and bustling location for business, leisure and living. We want to increase the number of people working and living in Swansea - and our InLink network will be a big help.
“Digital ambition is at the forefront of what we plan for our new city centre. The Kingsway will become a thriving digital district as we start to deliver projects that are due to be part-funded by a £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal – and plans are progressing well for the city’s 3,500-capacity digital arena.”
Juliet Luporini, Chair of Swansea Business Improvement District, said: “We are very pleased that Swansea is blazing a trail with the installation of the InLinks and its services throughout the City Centre. Swansea is undergoing its biggest and most exciting era of regeneration and modernisation at the moment, which you can see unfolding as we speak. This initiative goes hand in glove with the overarching drive to make Swansea an area of digital excellence, and it is very positive that visitors and those who live and work in the City Centre will have access to the fastest free public wi-fi available in the UK.”
Neil Scoresby, BT’s director of digital media, said: “Today’s launch in Swansea brings the fastest free public wi-fi in the UK to the city. Residents and visitors alike are set to benefit from this new state-of-the-art ‘phone box’, where they can also make calls for free, access local information and even charge their ‘phone when out and about.”
Jessica Tompkinson, Head of Communications and External Affairs for InLinkUK, added: “We’re excited to welcome Swansea as our first Welsh city, with the launch coming at a time of rapid progress in the national rollout of our InLinks. We are proud of the work we have done behind the scenes to prepare our services for Welsh speakers, with Swansea marking a significant milestone in our journey. We are pleased to provide our services to another UK nation, continuing with our mission to create smart communities, and with the InLinks offering a host of free digital services, we are well on our way to achieving this in key UK cities.”
The UK rollout has so far seen more than 200InLinks installed in Leeds, Gateshead, Glasgow, Southampton, Newcastle, Sheffield, as well as eight London boroughs; with hundreds more to be installed in key towns and cities across the UK. Since the first InLink was launched in June last year, more than 148,000 people have subscribed to the service’s free wi-fi, using enough data to download the equivalent of more than 27 million songs. The InLinks have also saved people more than £660,000 in free calls, with 50,000 calls being made on average every week across the UK.
One of the InLink’s newest features is its free one-touch lifelines to four national charities. Free calls can be made via the tablet to Childline, End Youth Homelessness, Runaway Helpline and Samaritans. The InLinks are also accessible, offering 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.