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Public housing tenants in the London Borough of Wandsworth could soon get access to gigabit fibre-optic broadband after a successful pilot clocked download speeds of 1.08Gbps, 47 times faster than the current UK average speed.
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Residents of Thessaly House on the Savona Estate, close to Battersea’s iconic power station, will be the first to have access to a Community Fibre Gigafast network, which has been rolled out through a partnership deal with Wandsworth Council.
The council said it planned to roll out the service across the rest of the Savona estate later in 2015, followed by the neighbouring Patmore and Carey Gardens Estates.
Ultimately it hopes to install the same service across its housing stock offering, which currently comprises around 20,000 homes. It will be the first major landlord to retrofit its housing stock with fibre broadband on this scale.
Residents will be charged £30 a month to subscribe to the unlimited gigabit service, with no line rental charges and no download limits.
Community Fibre will also work with the council to identify some of the borough’s more deprived households that still have no internet connection, to offer them an introductory package to bridge the digital divide.
Wandsworth Council said the scheme could be a major breakthrough for the broadband market in London – parts of which have been underserved by the commercial roll-sout but are not eligible for funding under Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
Up to now most housing blocks in London, both public and privately owned, have had to make do with standard services delivered over copper. In larger tower blocks, many of which remain in London, the copper wires have to be made much longer, slowing down speeds even further.
“The speeds we’re seeing are absolutely incredible. This breakthrough infrastructure project means our council estate residents are on course for some of the fastest home broadband speeds in the entire country,” said Wandsworth Council cabinet member for housing, Paul Ellis.
“We’re on the brink of a tremendous achievement that could set a blueprint for other social and private landlords to follow.
“It will mean our tenants and leaseholders have access to all the benefits of an incredibly fast and reliable broadband connection which will far exceed the speeds of existing services. It’s particularly important for anyone with high data demands like the many local people who work from home or run their own business.”
Community Fibre business development director Tim Stranack added: “Our fully fibre-optic Gigafast service will provide residents with the internet services they need now and into the future. Our agreement with Wandsworth has generated significant interest in Community Fibre from a number of sources who we plan to work with to roll out our service to other parts of London.”
Wandsworth Council also set out plans to take the estate-based networks out to the rest of the area, with the intention of offering gigabit speeds to every household in the borough, which besides Battersea encompasses Balham, Putney, Tooting, and Wandsworth itself, in south-west London.
It has a population of 307,000 and around 130,500 residential properties, meaning that a borough-wide roll-out could well rival and even surpass many other fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) schemes in terms of customer volume.
Famous for charging the lowest council tax rates in the UK, Wandsworth Council has a long-established reputation for testing out innovative services – a few years ago it gave residents the ability to sign up for its online services via Facebook.
To investigate the potential of borough-wide fibre, it has now invited residents to help it demonstrate the business case for further broadband investment by completing an online survey.