BT rolls out first Street Hub 2.0 units, donates up to £7.5m of ad space to small businesses

David Murphy

BT is donating up to £7.5m worth of outdoor advertising space to small businesses, as part of its roll-out of new Street Hub 2.0 units, which include digital advertising screens and ultrafast wi-fi. The first of the new units opened for buusiness yesterday in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Notting Hill Gate, and is co-located with a pop-up 'Design Hub' which showcases the power of digital street advertising for small firms looking to boost awareness of their business following the pandemic.  

Design experts were on hand throughout the day to create free digital ads for the 15 prize winners of a BT competition which gathered nominations from local businesses and the public. The ads will then be displayed on the six Street Hub units which are being deployed across Kensington and Chelsea, free of charge. A further 60 local businesses are also being given the chance to advertise for free over the next two weeks, with nominations open now.   

BT is gifting up to £7.5m of free advertising space to local businesses via the units between now and the end of March, as they are rolled out to new locations across the UK, including Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham, Birmingham and Solihull and Southampton. BT will be contacting local businesses and the public in these areas over the coming weeks to encourage them to nominate local firms who could benefit from the offer. 

The launch comes as a new BT study found that more than 60 per cent of small businesses agree that local advertising would help to increase awareness of their business, with 40 per cent saying it would encourage more people to shop at their local high street. However, almost half (49 per cent) said that cost was a major obstacle to them investing in local Out Of Home (OOH) advertising.

The study also revealed that 66 per cent of local businesses think that mobile connectivity could be improved in their local community, to help them work faster and smarter. The Street Hub 2.0 units will enhance local digital infrastructure by including the option to install mini mobile masts or ‘small cells’ on the structure to further boost 4G and 5G coverage in the local area. They also feature free Gigabit wi-fi and rapid mobile device charging, enhancing digital connectivity and services for communities. Other benefits include access to an emergency call button, charity helplines, and local wayfinding via an integrated tablet.  

Each local authority is provided with 5 per cent of total screen time on each Street Hub unit to promote local community and municipal services such as food banks, health and social care or leisure activities. They can also inform the local community about developments or issues affecting their area. For example, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 400 existing Street Hub units across the country played a vital role in displaying key public health advice from Public Health England and local councils.  

“BT’s Street Hubs ensure that Londoners have access to fast and free wi-fi across the capital whilst on the go, they improve mobile signal, and help councils to get vital local information to their residents,” said Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London. “The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for many small businesses, so I’m pleased that BT is supporting London’s businesses through free local digital advertising."