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City of London Corp Award 1Gbps Free WiFi Network Contract to O2 and CTIL

Friday, April 7th, 2017 (7:50 am) - Score 1,444

Earlier this year we reported that the City of London Corporation aimed to deploy a free WiFi network with “gigabit speeds” across much of the city’s “Square Mile” heart (here). Today we can confirm that O2 and Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTIL) will build and run it.

The exact costs of the new 15-year contract are unclear, although the CoLC describes it as being a “multi million pound project” and “one of the largest investments in wireless infrastructure ever seen in London.” Under the plan the new network, which replaces a much slower WiFi service from The Cloud (Sky Broadband), would begin its deployment by around late Spring 2017 and become “fully operational” by Autumn 2017.

Apparently CTIL and O2 will build the 4G (LTE) based mobile network by using “small cells” on top of City street furniture (e.g. lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns). This may also come in handy for supporting future deployments of 5G technology by around 2020, which is no doubt something that O2 will be keen to harness.

The CoLC maintains that their network will be “more technically advanced than those found in other leading global financial centres, including New York. State-of-the-art equipment will provide speeds and see users able to enjoy high bandwidth services like video-calling and video on demand over free City WiFi following a one-time only registration.”

Mark Boleat, Chair of the CoLC Policy and Resources Committee, said:

“Free, reliable, high-speed wireless internet is a must for any modern, competitive financial centre. That is why I am thrilled to have CTIL deliver this essential project for the Square Mile.

Soon, residents, visitors and workers in the City will be able to enjoy uninterrupted wireless connectivity, and this project should ensure that wireless ‘black spots’ in the Square Mile become a thing of the past.”

Derek McManus, COO of O2 UK, said:

“Continued investment in infrastructure is essential to maintain the UK’s reputation as a digital leader.

Connectivity plays a central role in supporting the future growth of our economy, enabling us to communicate and trade more easily, attracting overseas business and creating new jobs.

In fact, our own research tells us that an effective rollout of 5G connectivity will add over £7 billion a year to the economy by 2026.

That’s why we’re proud to be partnering with the City of London Corporation and CTIL to provide a network that will help London retain its position as a leading global financial centre.”

All of this comes on top of the CoLC’s recent work to foster ultrafast fibre optic broadband speeds across 12 central London housing estates (here) and their efforts with Openreach (BT) to further expand the availability of superfast broadband (FTTC/P) networks in the area. As well as various related improvements to wayleaves etc. (here). Interestingly the official press release cuts off mid-sentence and just before clarifying BT’s latest plan, but you can find their future roll-out locations online (here).

We welcome the move to provide central London with a speedy WiFi service, although it will be interesting to see whether or not this improves its popularity. Consumer trust in public WiFi has been hit by security concerns and its use in city areas may also be hampered by improving 4G speeds (experiences vary). People also tend to view 4G as being less fiddly to access (no sign-up forms) and more secure than WiFi.

As a rule, if you do choose to go online via Public WiFi then do so via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to keep your connection as secure as possible.

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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.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Nick says:

    Is this WiFi or 4G? The title says WiFi and the text makes numerous references but this bit has thrown me:

    “Apparently CTIL and O2 will build the 4G (LTE) based mobile network by using “small cells” on top of City street furniture (e.g. lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns).”

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Modern small cells can do both.

    2. TWKND says:

      Presumably O2 and Vodafone customers will benefit from both, and everyone else can use the WiFi.

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