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Verizon pours cash into city Wi-Fi with LQD buy

Telco to boost options for getting online in smart cities

US telecom giant Verizon says it will buy the Big Apple startup LQD WiFi with the goal of improving network access in crowded cities.

Set up by ex-Microsoftie Randy Ramusack, LQD specializes in developing public "hub" kiosks that combine Wi-Fi base stations with charging stations and digital signage screens. The LQD "Palo" system was designed to be scattered throughout cities, to provide public Wi-Fi and stations for people to contact emergency services and to navigate around towns.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Such base stations have been pitched to cities as the 21st-century alternative to phone booths, in some cases directly replacing the public phones' exact positions on city streets.

Having acquired "substantially all" of LQD's assets, Verizon says it will keep LQD working in that direction and absorb the startup into its Smart Cities program.

The aim would be to roll the Palo base stations into the Smart Cities' packages of wireless and landline networks and management services it wants to sell to city and county governments.

The stations could also potentially serve as hubs for Verizon to further push (and sell ads around) its growing AOL/Yahoo! content network.

"With LQD's technology, Verizon aims to address key community needs such as fostering economic development, bridging the digital divide, facilitating transportation and traffic management and enhancing personal security and urban planning," the telco says of the deal.

"LQD and Verizon are currently designing solutions for municipalities, private developers, academic institutions and entertainment venues."

The deal adds to what has already been a busy 2016 shopping season for Verizon, highlighted by the $4.8bn acquisition of Yahoo! – though the specifics of that tie-up remain very much up in the air following the revelation of a massive loss of customer data at the Purple Palace. ®

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