Up to 10,000 terminals will provide free Internet access up to 150 feet (45 meters) from hubs, replacing New York's remaining fleet of seldom-used pay phones.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the "LinkNYC" system "the fastest and largest municipal WiFi network in the world."
Free domestic phone calls can also be made from the stations, which feature a touch-screen interface, a cell phone and tablet charging station, and provide access to emergency services.
WiFi is already available in dozens of New York parks, as well as a small part of the Chelsea neighborhood. Chelsea was part of an initiative by US technology giant Google.