The City of London Corporation (CoLC) has today announced that the current free WiFi service (provided by The Cloud), which covers much of the “Square Mile” heart of the area, will over the coming months be replaced and upgraded in order to support “gigabit speeds” and other high bandwidth services.
Apparently the new network, which is due to be rolled out from late spring 2017, will aim to “surpass that found in the world’s other major international financial centre – New York” and represents the “single largest investment in wireless infrastructure ever seen in the City of London“. We can’t confirm that last claim as there’s no costing provided or clear basis for comparison.
The move should deliver a useful benefit to the area because big patches around the ‘City of London‘ area continue to suffer from a lack of affordable “superfast broadband” coverage (mixed experiences with Relish Wireless not withstanding), which is especially true for the current WiFi network that is often obstructed by tall buildings and narrow streets.
However experiences in other parts of London tend, with a few exceptions, to be much more positive and Openreach (BT) are currently conducting a major expansion of its network around the various boroughs. Likewise Virgin Media have also been busy expanding their network and it’s a similar story for other operators’, such as Hyperoptic.
Mark Boleat, Chairman of the CoLC’s Policy Committee, said:
“As the world’s leading financial hub, we are thrilled to bring our wireless connectivity up to speed. At a time when other major financial centres are competing with us, the Square Mile is boosting its appeal through initiatives such as this. The new service will allow City workers to become better connected than ever before.”
Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor for Business, said:
“Fast and reliable digital connectivity is crucial for businesses and I’m really pleased the City of London Corporation is taking this significant step in improving speed and coverage in the Square Mile. The Mayor is committed to improving London’s connectivity, including tackling the capital’s ‘notspots’ and ensuring providers have better access to public-sector property for digital infrastructure.”
The winning provider for the delivery of this network will be announced in the “next few weeks” and the CoLC are already suggesting that the chosen supplier will need to install over 400 “small cells” (i.e. low-powered radio access nodes) in order to “boost the strength and reliability of the current wireless coverage by using street objects like lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns.”
It’s hoped that the new WiFi infrastructure may also be combined with Mobile kit to help improve 4G and possibly to foster a future 5G network (London may see the first 5G network by around 2020). “In some areas mobile service has [also] been unreliable for some of the 400,000 City workers and 10 million yearly visitors,” said the CoLC.
Mind you we suspect that fixed wireless ISP Relish Wireless (UK Broadband Ltd.) might not be too pleased with a free rival network being established that might challenge their service, although this depends upon how good it is. In addition, public WiFi networks usually don’t make very good home broadband solutions and so this is perhaps more of a complement than a competitor.