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

Street-clutter clutters streets with punters

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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 hitherto offered a paid service, but now punters prepared to stump up a mobile number and email address, and download a coupon for a local store, will get free access in exchange.

The company is, of course, hoping local shops will pay for those coupons, which are displayed on the Wi-Fi sign-in page. The shops in turn will be hoping those taking advantage of some high-street Wi-Fi will be temped to stop surfing and start shopping, thus funding the whole thing.

The initial roll-out includes boxes in London's most popular sites including Westminster, Lancaster Gate, Victoria and Mayfair as well as the aforementioned shopping streets and a handful of others around London's West End. Shops in those areas will probably want to get involved initially, assuming the rates aren't prohibitive, but it will be very interesting to see if those coupons turn into sales.

Most companies, including Google and the mobile network operators, see location as a "value add" to already-demographically-targeted advertising. Advertisers care most about the home address of the target, followed by their sex and age, with location a long way down the list, but Spectrum's offering is only based on location, so is more like a physical billboard than a Google AdWord.

The question is what kind of person stops to use a Spectrum access point, and if that person is of interest to the shops beside the access spot, which won't be resolved until someone starts pushing adverts at them. ®

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