Telephone booths given new role as Wi-Fi hubs

Some 500 public telephone booths in downtown Shanghai now feature wireless broadband, allowing nearby people access to the Internet, China Telecom’s Shanghai branch said yesterday.

This is part of a strategy to establish a wireless city plan, giving residents widespread Internet access through Wi-Fi or 3G communications.

The public phone booths, in central areas such as Yuyuan Garden, Yanzhong Park and People’s Square, were previously seldom used as most people now have mobile phones.

But pedestrians can now get Wi-Fi access through devices including mobile phones, tablet computers and laptops. The carrier charges 0.03 yuan a minute — almost half local Internet cafe rates of 3 yuan (45 US cents) an hour.

In future, the carrier plans to add more functions to the booths, such as photo printing, mobile bill inquiries and utility bill payment, China Telecom said.

Another carrier, China Mobile, recently announced that it plans to upgrade its Wi-Fi network to cover 35 million square meters of buildings in Shanghai, including airports, railway stations and university campuses.