Gateshead becomes first city in North East to benefit from free ultrafast wi-fi and phone calls

Gateshead has become the first city in the North East to benefit from the free InLinkUK from BT service, which already has more than 130,000 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.

Seven InLinks are being installed around Gateshead’s Trinity Square, providing ultrafast wi-fi, 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. Gateshead is the fifth city to benefit from the new service, joining London, Leeds, Glasgow and Southampton.

The installation of InLinks mean more space on pavements, as on average, each InLink replaces two BT payphones, with 14 set to be removed in Gateshead. BT’s iconic red phone boxes will remain.

The first of the fully-accessible InLinks have already gone live on High Street and West Street, with further activations expected in the coming weeks. Home to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and The Great Exhibition of the North, Gateshead is a key visitor and tourist hub.

Gateshead and the local community are also benefiting from the digital displays on the InLinks that display real-time information, including the weather forecast and other local information. 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.

Kieran Charleson, BT’s regional director for the North of England, said: “Today’s launch in Gateshead brings the fastest free public wi-fi in the UK to the North East. 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.”

Matt Bird, general manager for InLinkUK, added: “The launch of our services in Gateshead comes at a time of rapid progress in the national rollout of our InLinks. We are pleased to be a part of the Digital Gateshead Strategy, which feeds directly into our mission of creating smart communities. With the InLinks offering a host of free digital services, we are well on our way to achieving this in key UK towns and cities.”

The UK rollout has so far seen more than 175 InLinks installed in eight London boroughs, Leeds, Glasgow and Southampton; with hundreds more to be installed in major towns and cities across the UK. Since the first InLink was installed in June last year, more than 130,000 people have subscribed to the service’s free wi-fi, using enough data to download the equivalent of more than 21 million songs. The InLinks have also saved people more than £550,000 in free calls, with 45,000 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.

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