Mayor launches digital upgrade

Large areas of London are set to be upgraded from copper cables to full fibre optics using the Tube network and public buildings, thanks to a £10 million investment launched by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

The plans will make it possible for more of London to access gigabit-speed connectivity by tackling ‘not spot’ areas which suffer from poor connectivity.  Gigabit-speed connectivity is the next generation of broadband internet service, which is typically delivered over fibre optic cables all the way to the home, and provides speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second – fast enough to download a two hour-long film in high definition in just 25 seconds.

New fibre optic cabling will be laid along TfL tunnels to create a ‘fibre backbone’ across London. The investment announced today by the Mayor will cover the installation costs of linking these fibre optic cables to public buildings, such as community centres and libraries. The work being funded by Mayor will also reduce the cost to providers of laying cabling between the public buildings and Londoners’ homes and businesses. This will particularly benefit areas with little or no existing fibre, which had previously deemed financially unviable and which suffered from poor connectivity as a result.

Currently around 90 per cent of London is served by fibre only reaching local telecoms exchanges. Most homes are then connected with copper cabling, which offers much lower speeds. London currently lags behind other cities due to its reliance on copper: only around 11 per cent of properties can order full fibre connections, compared to 70 per cent in Spain and Sweden.

More local fibre will also pave the way for next-generation 5G mobile connectivity, which requires an extensive full fibre network. The announcement comes after the Mayor announced the start of 4G connectivity on the Tube earlier this summer. This latest funding brings City Hall’s total investment in full fibre connectivity to more than £30 million, which will benefit more than 400,000 homes across the capital.

Secured from City Hall’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), this latest funding joins other investment of £11 million for West London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London’s future digital connectivity will be built on fibre. High-speed connectivity is crucial for businesses of all sizes and sectors, not to mention Londoners accessing digital services at home and around the city.

“This represents the largest investment in connectivity City Hall has ever made – the funding I’m announcing today unlocks the potential for us to use the Tube network and public buildings in bringing gigabit-speed connectivity to Londoners currently putting up with poor service.

“I hope this provides the catalyst for further investment from the public and private sectors – I’m urging them to match my ambitions to get all Londoners connected.”

An additional £1 million is also being allocated by the Mayor to drive future investment from the public and private sectors, in light of the significant need for further funding.

Chief Executive of London First, Jasmine Whitbread, said: “Gigabit-speed connectivity is critical if London is to sustain its position as one of the best cities in the world to do business, and this investment will help London’s government work with the private sector to plug the digital blackspots across the capital.

“Rolling out 5G and full fibre across the capital is a challenge, and one we must meet if we are to avoid falling behind our international competitors.“

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