If the rejuvenation project sounds a little familiar, that's because BT's teamed up with Intersection to make this happen -- the same subsidiary of
Google's Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs that's behind the Links kiosks in New York City. The monoliths themselves are identical, serving as up to 1 Gbps WiFi hotspots, providing free calls (headphones are recommended if you don't want to broadcast your conversation through the booth's loudspeaker), hosting two USB ports for emergency device charging and offering all kinds of useful information via the built-in tablet.
All of this will be paid for by advertising revenue, with two large displays on either side of the kiosks showing promotional material alongside public service announcements. Beyond what you can see, the pillars will also host environmental sensors for recording temperature, air and noise pollution, as well as traffic conditions and other metrics suitable for future big data/smart city applications.
The London Borough of Camden will be the first testbed for the payphone replacements, with 100 expected to be installed starting next year. "At least" 750 kiosks are planned in central London alone, with rollouts in other major UK cities over the next couple of years also on the agenda. Unsurprisingly, there's no mention of free internet browsing on the embedded tablets, which had to be switched off in New York after less fortunate residents of the city began monopolizing them, sometimes for, erm... self-gratification.