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London Mayor Details Plan to Grow 5G, WiFi and Full Fibre Broadband

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 (8:35 am) - Score 1,292
london city 2017 uk

The Mayor of London UK, Sadiq Khan, has published a new roadmap that aims to build the “smartest city in the world” and to improve its digital connectivity. The measures will grow public WiFi hotspots, support 5G Mobile networks and make “full fibre” (FTTH/P) ultrafast broadband available to all new build homes.

At present around 97% of premises in London can already access a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) network (details), which mostly stems from Openreach’s (BT) ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable FTTC (VDSL2) technology and Virgin Media’s 350Mbps capable EuroDOCSIS based cable network (the latter means that “ultrafast” speeds of 100Mbps+ are also available to around 70% of premises).

However, the new generation of Gigabit (1Gbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) or “full fibre” networks are currently only available to around 7% of premises, which is being delivered via a mix of operators from Openreach to Hyperoptic and Community Fibre etc. Meanwhile that final 3% without access to “superfast” speeds still reflect a lot of premises, particularly around parts of Rotherhithe, Westminster and the city centre.

Last year Sadiq Khan proposed a rough plan to further improve connectivity across London (here and here), which didn’t offer much detail and sounded eerily similar to what previous mayors had proposed. Thankfully the full ‘Smarter London Together roadmap has now been published, which is centred around five core missions and number three on the list references digital connectivity.

We’ve summarised this below by cutting out as much political spin and hype as possible in order to focus on the key points.

Mission 3: World-class connectivity and smarter streets

* Launch a new Connected London programme to coordinate connectivity and 5G projects.

This will aim to tackle ‘notspots’ and mobilise public-sector property across London to reduce the costs of full fibre deployment. As part of this the mayor is proposing to develop integrated strategies and governance frameworks, including template standardised wayleaves and agreements, to deliver a new 5G standard for London.

There’s also talk about the mobilisation of public land, buildings and smaller assets. “In the future, sharing data between infrastructure owners – TfL, utilities, real estate – will help connectivity providers build their networks more cheaply and easily,” said the roadmap.

On top of that Transport for London (TfL) is already working to bring mobile coverage to the London Underground. TfL is also working to deploy fast digital connectivity along key transport corridors by securing significant investment in fibre capability in the London Underground. City Hall, TfL and London boroughs successfully collaborated in winning an £8.5m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) grant in March 2018 (here). “By linking 50 public buildings to the fibre network on the Tube, this will provide extra local connectivity to the surrounding area.”

* Propose planning powers, like requiring full fibre to the home for all new developments, to enhance connectivity in the future.

The new London Plan, currently under consultation and scheduled for adoption in 2019, will propose planning policies to require new developments (homes and offices etc.) across London to provide full fibre connectivity to the home and meet expected demand for mobile connectivity. Provisions will also be made to support mobile and wireless connectivity, such as via rooftop access.

Our new approach proposes that the provision of digital infrastructure is as important for the proper functioning of the city as energy, water and waste management services. As such, it should be treated with the same importance.

* Enhance public wifi in streets and public buildings to assist those who live, work and visit London.

London is already home to a lot of public WiFi but the Mayor wants more and is talking about supporting “coordination of public wifi services” (whatever that means), as well as exploring a London-wide WiFi service “focused on improving flexible working in the public sector” (GovWifi and Govroam).

GovWifi is being developed by GDS, while Jisc is developing GovRoam as products public sector organisations can use. In both cases, users of these networks can now log on and access the internet securely in hundreds of new public-sector locations around London.

* Support a new generation of smart infrastructure through major combined procurements.

The Sharing Cities programme will form the backdrop to this one, with the Mayor’s plan exploring how it supports smart infrastructure when old ‘street furniture’ (lamp posts, benches and shelters) is renewed. “We can start by supporting a new generation of lampposts whose capability goes beyond providing light, but can include air quality sensors, public wifi, cameras, electric vehicle charge points, electricity for filming and festivals, and potential for 5G rollout.”

As part of this, Sharing Cities is seeking European Investment Bank (EIB) seed funding of between €1-3m to explore the collaborative procurement of smart lampposts for five city regions across Europe including London.

* Promote common standards with smart tech to maximise benefits.

This one is a bit vague but the Mayor appears to be concerned about the potential for duplication or waste if smart tech is adopted without properly regarding the needs and security of citizens. “Adoption of common standards in smart infrastructure across London and sharing of performance data with designers and engineers will improve the design and performance of London’s future buildings, spaces and streets. The Mayor’s Design Advocates will advise on how this data should be collected and shared as part of the Mayor’s Good Growth by Design programme.”

The idea of requiring all new developments to ensure they can deliver “full fibre” broadband isn’t new and key operators, such as Openreach, GTC, Hyperoptic and Virgin Media, are already working with major property developers to encourage more FTTP/H adoption. But there’s a question mark over how far London will or can go with this.

Technically speaking all new builds, except the smallest developments (e.g. individual home builds, which anybody can attempt), are already required to install the necessary core infrastructure (e.g. cable ducts) in order to support the future deployment of high speed broadband services to a development. Putting empty ducts in the ground is easy enough but getting an operator to connect them via FTTH isn’t always so simple.

Meanwhile the call for standardised wayleaves and agreements across London is a positive step. On this point we think that the mayor could learn something from what the City of London Corporation has already managed to achieve in the city centre (here).

Likewise Openreach recently noted that a big part of the problem with wayleaves stemmed from the deceptively simple sounding challenge of figuring out who to contact (owners of big buildings) in the first place (here), which requires better information sharing.

Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, said:

“A year ago I announced my ambition to make London the world’s leading smart city. Today I am proud to unveil my vision for making that ambition a reality. We need a step-change in how we harness innovation for the benefit of all Londoners.

Many of London’s advances in the application of data and smart technologies are globally recognised. We have clearly taken great steps but I want us to do even more to meet the needs of Londoners.

As one of the world’s leading technology hubs, we need to be bold and think big, to experiment and try things out that have not been done elsewhere. I see London’s future as a global ‘test-bed city’ for civic innovation, where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled.

To solve the biggest problems our great city faces, I am calling for an ever-more collaborative approach than ever. We need our public services, major universities and technology community to mobilise their resources in new ways and partner with us to make London a fairer and more prosperous place.”

Broadly speaking we welcome what the mayor is saying, although as usual there’s a lack of clear targets and time-scales to help focus minds. A lot of the talk also focused upon the need to foster “full fibre” broadband ISP networks in new builds, which is all well and good but it seems to overlook those who are still waiting for even basic “superfast” speeds in the final 3% or so of existing premises.

Side Note: The official press release for all this confusingly defined “Gigabit connectivity” over fibre optic lines as typically offering speeds in “excess of 1,000MB per second” (MegaBytes?). In fairness, fibre optic lines can deliver speeds into the multi-Terabit territory but in the above context we’re fairly sure the mayor actually meant 1,000Mbps (Megabits rather than MegaBytes).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Matthew

    This sounds more like grand standing then anything truly significant

  2. Joe

    “The official press release for all this confusingly defined “Gigabit connectivity” over fibre optic lines as typically offering speeds in “excess of 1,000MB per second” (MegaBytes?). In fairness, fibre optic lines can deliver speeds into the multi-Terabit territory but in the above context we’re fairly sure the mayor actually meant 1,000Mbps (Megabits rather than MegaBytes).”

    Or more likely the PR don’t understand the terms they use.

    Rest of the stuff is a lot of ‘hopes’ and ‘aims’ not a lot of substance

  3. Mike

    Will this happen before or after everyone has been stabbed to death?

    • un4h731x0rp3r0m

      Got to get priorities straight first you have to feed the idealistic minds with glitzy ideas, ie things like broadband…. Then we can move onto that annoying minor stuff like gangs, violent thefts on mopeds, shootings, vehicles mowing people down like skittles and knifes. 😉

  4. Ethel Prunehat

    Good thing you wrote “London UK” because otherwise I would have assumed the article on this .co.uk website [called ISPreview UK] was about the London in Ontario.

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