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back to article At last! A use for Blighty's phone-boxes: Free Wi-Fi hotspots

Spectrum Interactive is opening up its phone-box-based hotspots around London, offering free access to anyone prepared to share their contact details and download a coupon or two. Spectrum reckons it has 1,800 pay-phones equipped with Wi-Fi, including along Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and Knightsbridge. Those have …

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Bronze badge

Looks more sensible than some.

It sounds like the first step towards selling advertising in "augmented reality". It's a virtual billboard in a known location, and that can have some value. Whether coupons work, I'm less certain.

I reckon it would be easier to sell to advertisers than some of the ideas around. If they did something to help the adverts guide you to physical shops, such as painting direction arrows on the phone boxes ("Go in the direction of the Red Arrow to find our shop") you have something that also encourages people to use the Wi-Fi.

(I have a few stories about matching street addresses to the reality on the ground.)

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Anonymous Coward

but will they block

The modern equivalent of all those little cards advertising personal services?

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"offering free access to anyone prepared to share their contact details and download a coupon or two." -- So not free then.

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Alert

contact details?

Real contact details or a junk e-mail address?

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Re: contact details?

.. and Pay-as-you-go SIM. My main worry is still that somewhere a telco will start offering free SMS - the cost of SMS is the only thing stopping you being flooded with ads and make your phone unusable. Case in point: try to cross a border with a UK O2 or Orange SIM and you get several text messages telling you how wonderful their service abroad is. No way to avoid it - the system finds you abroad and whammo, provider spam.

Now imagine that door open to every idiot on the planet..

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M7S
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Coat

what kind of person stops to use a Spectrum access point

Only those with a rank and colour.

The cap with the drop down microphone please

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Coat

Re: what kind of person stops to use a Spectrum access point

That's the most mysteronous comment I've ever seen.

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Re: what kind of person stops to use a Spectrum access point

You win 1 internets.

Please give me your details and then download a coupon to redeem it.

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Don't knock the old phone boxes!

When your landline dies, how are you going to get in contact with BT to get them to come and fix it? It's a bootstrap problem: dialing 100 on a mobile won't get you BT's operator; from a phone box it will. As I discovered a couple of years back, there are still things for which a phone box is best!

And they don't even stink of smoke any more!

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

What's a landline?

BT publish 0800 numbers for reporting faults (which will soon be free from mobiles too). Brand-new PAYG phones can be picked up for under £10 in any Tesco.

You're hardly *LOCKED* to a landline any more. The fault on your landline won't be vital any more. And reporting the fault is easier than ever because I can almost guarantee you that you have a mobile in your pocket right now, or are standing next to someone who does.

And how do you find those free fault-reporting numbers? Try any operator. Or Google. Or directory enquiries.

And, let's be honest, the situation's been the same since, what, the 90's? I can honestly say I've never used a telephone box in my life, and I'm only 30. Hell, when I move house, the only reason to have a landline is if I want ADSL or it comes free with the package. I couldn't tell you the last time it actually *RUNG* (and certainly not the last time it was rung by someone I actually wanted to speak to!).

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BT faults now have a 03 number as well as their 0800 number

Worked for me when contacting them from a mobile - and was included in the standard minutes allowance.

The number is 0330 1234 151.

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

Never used a phone box in your life and you're "only" 30?

Laddie, I'm not much older than you and I distinctly remember being on an exchange that was crap enough that you had to dial the operator for a trunk line so she (was always a she in them days) could do the whole plugging-jack-leads-in thing.

Was fun when someone hacked the local phone box to play a few minutes of radio when you dialled 147. More fun when we had to leg it with speed at a BT van turning up after a bunch of us had sat around the phone box for an hour repeatedly dialling. Hey, I was 6 or 7 years old, do you blame me?

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

indeed. I'm only 40 and still remember pips and a quick double dial for "come pick me up dad" as a kid.

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

And they don't even stink of smoke any more!

True. These days it's urine..

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

Heck, I have even amused myself with those amazing dial relays they used - that kind of engineering was actually fun.

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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

> they don't even stink of smoke any more!

No, normally it's cider, either raw, or, er, recycled.

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Pint

Want me to use it

Here is a voucher for a pint of pride. Thank you for using our wifi service.

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Don't give your mobile phone number to any organisation ....

.. because they will sell it on and you'll get bloody spam texts. If you reply with 'Stop', they don't stop or they pass your number along to another f***ing text spammer. The mobile operators don't care because all those people texting 'Stop' makes a tidy income for them with no extra effort.

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Stop

Re: Don't give your mobile phone number to any organisation ....

you used your real phone number? really?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't give your mobile phone number to any organisation ....

The enabler tends to be sent back via SMS, so not giving *a* real number is not going to work - unless you're a sad case like me who travels with two phones. The second one is backup and SMS is silenced so I don't care. I suspect the SMS inbox is full by now (it's an old phone)..

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Unhappy

London

Great - more cool stuff for London, which we won't see anywhere else.

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Happy

Re: London

Don't get too upset about it. Just think, in the near future, when you can opt in for porn, you will be able to safely walk past billboards with your other half without being embarrassed by targeted adverts, or plod's hand on your shoulder saying 'you're one of these opt in types I see, now come along with me'.

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Local WiFi for local people

The next village along from us has a phone box without a phone in it, with a notice inside saying that the parish council have chosen to keep the phone box because it is scenic (and it is a very bucolic location, it's just opposite the church and next to the duck pond).

My guess as to the main demographic using phone boxes, based on the people who I see using the one near a friend's house and the take away is middle class people with itemised billing on their mobiles who are having affairs.

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Go

Why stop at phone boxes?

Could also roll this idea out to streetlamps/post boxes as well with the right kind of ingenuity.

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Re: Why stop at phone boxes?

I'm guessing that the phone boxes have some sort of connection to a telecommunications infrastructure.

Of course they might be that they are using dialup.

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Anonymous Coward

solution looking for a problem

as title says

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Thumb Down

I wonder why anyone with an internet connection still bothers with bricks and mortar shopping. I haven't gone shopping by foot for several years now.

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Because Tesco is 5 minutes away...

...and delivery takes longer.

Ditto Aldi, Iceland, and at least two or three local computer shops. I get stuff from the Internet when I can't find it elsewhere, but I'd really rather shop at a physical store. That way when something goes tits-up, I know where to take it back, and it happens straight away and not after a couple of weeks of fucking about, spending money to insure stuff by next day special delivery, hoping the other guys got it and waiting for the credit to your bank account that might take a while.

Now if you're 10 miles from the nearest shops and have no transport, I can see delivery of Internet-ordered groceries being advantageous. Otherwise, not so much.

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Because the postal service is rubbish most of the time.

I do all my Christmas shopping online but I have to inform my neighbours that I'm sorry for the hassle in advance. I work during normal working hours, thus all my parcels go undelivered, especially if it needs a signature. The postman will bother everyone on the street rather than leave it (because that gives him/me liability for it, depending on who decides he can do that) and I end up with 2-3 red parcel collection leaflets a day in December between the various members of my household.

If the neighbours have taken it in, I have to chase round them all to find out who and where and hope they're in. In one case I had to initiate a lawsuit because Three said they'd delivered my new contract phone and tried to charge me for something I'd never seen (and try to hold me to a contract that I'd never signed because it was in that lost parcel!). If it's gone back to the depot, I am graciously allowed to collect it from there between the hours of 8:30-4:30 on weekdays (so, that's a "never" then, to anyone who works) and up to 1pm on a Saturday, from a depot that you cannot park anywhere near. Near Christmas, on a Saturday, if you're not there at 7:00 am to start queueing, you won't get your parcel. And I won't risk parking near it because you stand a good chance of getting a ticket if you ignore the markings because the traffic wardens appear out of nowhere on a Saturday when they know it's easy-pickings.

If you do manage to get to the front of the queue, it's a 50-50 toss-up as to whether they currently are trying to redeliver your parcel while you're there. If they are, you're stuffed and might as well come back tomorrow because you won't see them if you rush home, and you won't be able to queue again, and you can't wait for them to return because the customer service bit closes before they do. So, in effect, you just better hope that you get it before they send it back to the sender.

Do I live out in the sticks? No. I live in a large well-known town inside the M25, and the Royal Mail depot is only two minutes away (fortunately).

That, of course, is all assuming your parcel was sent by Royal Mail. There are myriad other companies who all do the same tricks, with depots in different places, one of which is miles from me through busy London streets (Hangar Lane Gyratory! GAH!). Last time something was delivered by them I ended up forcing them to phone the delivery driver and get him to drop off the parcel I'd come to collect by appointment that he'd taken out for delivery. I had to sign papers and argue like mad to get them to drop it over my garden fence so that it would be there after driving back (which took 45 minutes).

Then, of course, you have the times that things DON'T go according to those courier's plans anyway (lost parcels, customs charges, "we forgot where we put it but it's here somewhere", etc.) . About the only reliable company to order from is Amazon who seem to employ a company that consists of ordinary people in their cars who drive around at convenient times to deliver their parcels. They also operate a decent returns service that involves popping to a local newsagent who takes your parcel for them, so obviously they trust the Royal Mail and large courier companies as much as I do.

Online ordering is perfect. So long as you have a mail system that works, or are ordering things that are large enough for them to pre-arrange delivery. Otherwise, it can be easier to walk into town and get the damn things yourself. I've done my entire shopping for Christmas online for every year since 2000. It's steadily getting worse, to the point where I'm considering not to bother for some things. And it's nothing to do with the online stores, the payment, or anything else - it's to do with overworked, understaffed, useless, inconsiderate delivery companies that assume everyone is off work all day long every day and won't take responsibility for putting a parcel in a half-safe place (I have run one parcel over because they left it hidden on my driveway, and I've had one just left - with hundreds of pounds of IT equipment - on the doorstep for 18 hours in plain view with the name of the company visible, with even a "signed" delivery note shoved through my door that would cost a fortune to contest if it had gone missing).

Online ordering only works so far as mail-ordering works. When I have to catch my neighbours to warn them of an expensive parcel coming, mail-ordering is severely lacking.

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Great...

.. if you have one of these phone boxes right outside your house!

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Anonymous Coward

muggers, get yer smartphones here!

Those red boxes will provide a nice focal point so muggers know where to go to seize high end smartphones

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Re: muggers, get yer smartphones here!

Or alternatively, any phone with wifi?

ZTE Blade. Real high end, that one. I can see it fetching a pretty penny down the local pub, a whole £2.50 or so! That's assuming it's not loaded up to the hilt with tracking software and the owner isn't about to appear with six friends and a baseball bat.

Smartphones. A risky business for a thief.

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Already in Hong Kong

As per the title. This is already in operation in Hong Kong via PCCW. WIFI comes out of public pay phones, namely because everybody has cell phones they had to find a reason for them. Its useful for some mountain areas without 3G. Ma On Shan for example paragliding mountain. Its a cell phone tower deadzone because they don't want to stick a mast up this hill. But there is a pay phone up there.

And yes they do come out of lamp posts. My dad's village has a WIFI lamp post just out of range of his house. Which requires I go out of his house about 20 yards.

If you give them your telephone number and an email address, you can get a password which stays active for ten days. Considering everybody has disposible PAYG and disposible email addresses, PCCW spam the hell out of this email address. But never call you considering it costs money in HK to ANSWER a phone call. It works well.

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