Newcastle has become the latest city in the North East 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 InLink has been installed and activated on Newcastle’s Northumberland Road, providing 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. Newcastle joins Gateshead to become the second city in the North East to benefit from these new services.

InLinks mean more space on pavements, as on average, each InLink replaces two BT payphones, with around ten set to be removed in Newcastle. BT’s iconic red phone boxes will remain.

InLinks will continue to be installed and activated in the coming weeks. With the largest population in the North East, and home to two universities, Newcastle is a key visitor and commuter hub.

Newcastle and the local community are also benefiting from the InLink’s digital displays 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 Newcastle 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.”

Matt Bird, general manager for InLinkUK, added: “The launch of our services in Newcastle comes at a time of rapid progress in the national rollout of our InLinks. We are pleased to be able to extend our offering in the North East. With the InLinks offering a host of free digital services, we are well on our way to creating smart communities across the UK.”

The UK rollout has so far seen more than 200 InLinks installed in Gateshead, 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 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.