BT agrees deal with administrators to buy firm behind 21st century phone boxes

The company behind 21st century phone boxes that offer free calls, wi-fi and phone charging has been bought out of administration.

Telecoms giant BT agreed to buy InLink from administrators for an undisclosed fee and will run the nearly-500 units across 23 cities in the UK.

InLink went bust in November after attempts by the company to build thousands of the kiosks were thwarted by planning laws and opposition from the police, describing them as “antisocial” hubs.

One of its previous owners – advertising business Prime Site – is thought to have struggled to win enough advertising for the sites and bosses pulled the plug not long after it was taken over by Global.

BT, which was previously a partner in the venture, providing the cables and its name, will now run the sites.

The company has been removing traditional payphones over several years due to them not being used, and had hoped the sites could be an updated alternative.

But the kiosks hit the headlines after the Metropolitan Police claimed five of the phones in east London had been used by drug dealers for 20,000 deals over a 15-week period.

An algorithm was introduced to block “antisocial” calls via the kiosks, which originally launched successfully in New York.

There have also been issues with planning laws, as each one requires a licence, which can take several months to process.

Katherine Ainley, managing director of Ventures at BT, said: “By agreeing a deal with the administrators to purchase the remainder of the InLink network that we don’t already own, we can reassure councils and communities that the units will continue to function as normal over the coming weeks and months.

“We look forward to further developing our digital street strategy, and the InLink units will continue to form a critical part of this.”

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