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London Mayor Pushes ISPs to Ensure 99% Superfast Broadband Cover

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 (11:43 am) - Score 901

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (Conservative), will today meet some of the United Kingdom’s largest ISPs and mobile operators (including Virgin Media, BT and O2 UK) at a ‘Connectivity Summit’ where it’s hoped that a strategy can be devised to help improve the city’s superfast broadband connectivity.

London’s connectivity is already better than most of the UK, with Ofcom estimating that 89.10% already have access to a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) capable connection and average modem “sync” speeds tend to hover around 20.4Mbps. Similarly the percentage getting less than 2Mbps is just 5.40%. Pretty good by comparison to other parts of the UK and not forgetting that the figures should be even better now because Ofcom’s data is from 2013.

But some parts of London are still struggling, particularly in the South East, although the patchy issue can also occur in other areas too. For example, earlier this year we reported on a situation where multi-millionaire residents of the new One Hyde Park development in bustling Knightsbridge had been stuck with slow ADSL connectivity due to a local issue with Exchange-Only Lines (here). The mayor also estimate that 6,500 premises reside in “notspots” where even basic broadband could be a struggle.

Naturally the Mayor, as part of his new London Infrastructure Plan 2050, would like to do better and thus he wants 99% of properties in the capital to have access to affordable superfast connections by 2018.

The plan also envisages London becoming the first capital city in the world to deploy 5G based Mobile Broadband by 2020 and to boost WiFi coverage. The Mayor’s Office more broadly claims that a shift from basic broadband to superfast could boost London’s economy by around £4bn come 2024.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said:

The Internet is now considered the fourth utility and if we are to remain competitive in the global economy and bolster our reputation as the greatest city on earth we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity. By bringing together the great and good of the digital community we are today committing to ensuring that London has the infrastructure in place to stay ahead of our competitors while enabling businesses and residents to take full advantage of its benefits.”

As part of this effort a new Connectivity Rating Scheme is to be rolled out across the city, which will work to encourage developers and building owners to improve the connectivity by giving businesses information about a building’s broadband connectivity when choosing where to locate. The London Enterprise Panel has already allocated £50,000 towards the scheme (subject to final approval).

Admittedly Mr Johnson has earned himself somewhat of a reputation as being a man who makes big promises, albeit often with very little in the way of actual delivery (best not to mention “that” airport). On the other hand the “new” approach towards improving broadband connectivity in a densely populated area is probably one task that he easily can accomplish, especially since the ISPs appear to be pledging their support.

The summit will also look to create a Connectivity Advisory Group that will push a range of actions to solve London’s connectivity issues, including a city-wide mapping exercise to ascertain existing levels of high-speed connectivity accessibility and the barriers to provision in “notspots” (sounds a lot like the BDUK approach). It will also look at plans to use street furniture, such as bus stops, to improve connectivity and ensure providers advise customers about the latest tech available.

Joe Garner, CEO of BTOpenreach, said:

London is a world class city with world class connectivity. In fact, an independent report from PWC recently rated London as joint first in the world along with Seoul for technology readiness, well ahead of New York and other major cities. Regarding broadband, London is just one point behind Seoul in second place among major global cities – showing how well it is doing.

Every business in the capital is able to access ultra-fast broadband via dedicated lines. Consumer fibre broadband – which may also appeal to small businesses – is available to 88 per cent of properties in London and that figure is growing all the time. London’s world class connectivity has helped the capital to thrived over the decades. We’re delighted that the Mayor and his team are holding this summit to discuss how we make sure London’s strong position becomes yet stronger, and I have offered to personally share our plans with the Mayor at his convenience.”

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media’s CEO, added:

Securing a world class, connected capital city is a vital investment in all of our futures. It will reap a dividend far beyond London too; improving the UK’s international competitiveness, attracting investment and securing employment. At Virgin Media, we are proud to be supercharging London with unbeatable broadband, superfast WiFi and extending our network to reach an additional 100,000 homes. It’s an investment we’d like to continue building on.”

Separately it’s noted that more than 1,000 businesses have already registered to receive Connection Vouchers, which offer grants worth up to £3,000 to help SME firms get a superfast broadband connection. Apparently this figure is expected to “rise considerably over the next 12 months“. In addition, £1.2m is being investment to improve public WiFi provision in free museums and libraries across London.

Hopefully a more cohesive strategy can be developed over the next few months. A few more details on the initial proposals can be found below.

The Connectivity Advisory Group

* Will work to work in partnership with providers to tackle the challenge of ubiquitous and affordable connectivity coverage

* Will work to take forward a city-wide mapping (including underground) exercise to ascertain existing levels of high speed broadband accessibility and identify the barriers to provision in ‘not-spots’

* Will work to develop a profile of business and consumer communities and their potential communication infrastructure needs; consider ways to aggregate demand; and explore ways to encourage the take up superfast broadband

* Will work to advise on and assist with the delivery of the Mayor’s Digital Inclusion Plan, due to be published in Autumn 2014.

* Will work to develop a strategy for better utilising existing infrastructure to deliver improved availability and connection speeds.

Connectivity Ratings

* The city wide mapping exercise will be used to develop a connectivity ratings map, introducing a rating system for individual properties both to assist consumers and providers and to encourage developers and property owners to improve the connectivity of their properties.

* The ratings approach may be developed along similar lines to Right Move’s ‘Check Broadband Speed’ which is now included in its property listings, or to Energy Performance Certificates.

* We will also work with estate agents and surveyors to develop ways of assessing properties for their connectivity and to ensure that such assessments become part and parcel of building surveys in future, given their importance to consumers and businesses.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all says:

    While the measure for rural is 95% connected in some form of FTTP, FTTC, the ambitions for our cities should be the proportion of premises with access a native fibre service where 100Mbps symmetric for less than £100pm for those who need it.

    It is not just fibre for the sake of it, it has a cheaper LRIC and the underlying potential is greatest. The existing cost recovery regime for analogue circuits does include fibre access where ATA’s are used for delivering telephony.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Three obvious questions spring to mnd:

      1. Why should this be the measure, given it is for the market to provide in cities?
      2. Why not let competition to decide what to provide and at what price in these circumstances anyway?
      3. Too many people are fixated by headline sync speeds, what about throughput?

      The problem with someone deciding for us what we really need to use is that we will all end up paying or it whether we want it or not. Besides, in new developments it is the developer that determines what is on offer.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @New_Londoner – The market (BT Openreach) as an regulated SMP provider is failing to keep up with best practice in other cities. Your seeking subsidies for cabinets where you could offer FTTP. Your not offering cabinets where you are portecting private circuits. This is rational bechaviour, but it is also restricting customers access to best in class services.
      You will have noticed the Communications Act which states BT has an enduing monopoly in the access network and is likely to continue to have an enduring monopoly.
      Throughput – I agree, hence the reference to the need to access underlying potential of FTTP.
      Paying – the state is paying heavily for rural and customers are paying Opereach £2.2bn to maintain its infrastructure, rather that just patch it up.

  2. Avatar The Willows says:

    Unfortunately competition doesn’t work. BT’s cabinet 73 in Mitcham is a great example. The Willows (SM4 5BF) is a new (finished in 2013) 300 property development just metres away from both BT Openreach and Virgin Media’s fibre optic networks at the entrance to the development but for whatever reasons, only c.4mb ADSL connections are available. Whatever computer models are used, infill doesn’t appear to be high on the list.

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      This is probably now best solved by changing the planning regs by placing the responsibility on developers to put the passives in so one or more providers can provide FTTP.

      It is not expensive to do and most of the leading manufactures are based in the UK.

      Ofcom could also take the opportunoty to define a new demarcation point which would support more competition.

  3. Avatar DTMark says:

    “The plan also envisages London becoming the first capital city in the world to deploy 5G based Mobile Broadband by 2020”

    I suspect that’s the best strategy to ensure that fixed-line is forced to improve and compete, given that fixed line – as in fibre – can offer fixed connection speeds that 5G can not and will not, so it then has a USP in the face of competition and a reason to continue to exist.

  4. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    Surprised Boris isn’t asking for 100% ultrafast speeds in London he likes impossible goals.

    1. Avatar Raindrops says:

      Id say he prefers to dream big and not be negative like many in power.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      He could legitamely call for it to be completed within 25 years. A minor adjustment to the cost recovery for fixed line access could support this. It is much simpler than seeking a new airport.
      They could quite easily change the planning rules for all new developments.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Will there be fixed lines into premises in 25 years? If that was the timescale then wait 15 years and see what technology is available then.

    4. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @The facts – I would imagine so. With fibre bundles already deep into D-side, then I cannot imagine why you would not. The pre-occupation with spectrum auctions reinforces that viewpoint. The minor modifications to cost recoevery for fixed line access to incorporate fibre as a substitiute for copper is not too diffuclt to comprehend givem the current Ofcom definition of an analogue exchange line includes some FTTP which use an ATA for PST. Some modifications to the planning laws to pre-provide passives would not be too onerous or expensive.

      We do need a new market defintion to support FTTP. It is not PST, it is not broadband, it is next generation access proper. Might be as simple as that.

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