London pledges £10m to lay full fibre using the Tube

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The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has launched a £10 million investment fund to upgrade large parts of London from copper cable to full fibre using the Tube transport network.

“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,” said Khan. “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.”

The plans will see use of TfL’s tunnels to create a fibre backbone across London, making it possible for gigabit-speed connectivity. The project will start by connecting 118,000 properties in South London by tackling not spot areas that suffer from poor connectivity.

“We’re delighted that we can help increase connectivity across the city by using the London Underground to help provide better broadband internet,” added Shashi Verma, chief technology officer at TfL. “This work is on top of our wider plans to remove one of London’s biggest not-spots by bringing 4G to the Tube network, with the first section on track to go live from March 2020.”

The £10 million announced today will cover the installation costs of linking these fibre optic cables to public buildings, such as community centres and libraries. The project is also set to reduce the cost to providers of laying cables between the public buildings, homes and businesses.

At present close to 90% of London is served by fibre that only reaches local telecoms exchanges. Most homes are still connected with copper cabling, which offers much lower speeds. As a result, London lags behind other cities. Only 11% of London properties can order full fibre connections compared to 70% in Spain and Sweden. In addition, this latest boost in funding will also lay the foundation for next-gen 5G mobile connectivity, which requires a full fibre network.

“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,” continued Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First. “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. “

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.

“Vodafone is currently investing £1million per week growing and improving our network across London. The move from 4G to 5G is critical to the plans we have to drive innovations in tech and digital connectivity – we want to help make London one of the most advanced connected cities in the world. Vodafone already has 5G in more places than any other operator across the UK and Europe,” said Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone.