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London announces £10m cash injection for full-fibre connectivity

New fibre-optic cabling scheme will use Tube network and public buildings to create a fibre backbone across the capital

A project led by London mayor Sadiq Khan, Vodafone and Transport for London (TfL) will see the London Underground network and public buildings form the basis of a major infrastructure upgrade from copper cables to full-fibre optics across the capital.

The scheme is aimed at making it possible for more of London to access gigabit-speed connectivity – starting with 118,000 properties in south London – by tackling “not spot” areas that suffer from poor connectivity. New fibre-optic cabling will be laid along TfL tunnels to create a “fibre backbone” across the city.

Currently, about 90% of London is served by fibre only reaching local telecoms exchanges. Most homes are then connected with copper cabling, which offers much lower speeds. London currently lags behind other cities because of its reliance on copper – at present, only about 11% of properties can order full-fibre connections, compared with 70% in Spain and Sweden.

The work is also aimed at reducing the cost to providers of laying cable between the public buildings and Londoners’ homes and businesses. Officials see this as having particular benefit for areas with little or no existing fibre, which had previously been deemed financially unviable and which suffered from poor connectivity as a result.

A £10m investment from the mayor’s office will cover the installation costs of linking these fibre-optic cables to public buildings. Secured from City Hall’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), the latest funding – the largest that the municipality has made in connectivity – brings City Hall’s total investment in full-fibre connectivity to more than £30m and adds to other investment of £15.4m from London Councils for west and north London, and £8.5m for central London from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Khan said: “London’s future digital connectivity will be built on fibre. High-speed connectivity is crucial for businesses of all sizes and sectors, not to mention Londoners accessing digital services at home and around the city. The funding I’m announcing unlocks the potential for us to use the Tube network and public buildings in bringing gigabit-speed connectivity to Londoners who are currently putting up with poor service. I hope this provides the catalyst for further investment from the public and private sectors.”

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The mayor made the announcement as he officially opened The Speechmark, Vodafone’s new £6.5m digital hub in London. The newly refurbished building will house a 1,000-strong workforce and is designed to play a role in helping the Southwark area, in which it is based, become one of the fastest-growing digital centres in London.

“Vodafone is currently investing £1m per week growing and improving our network across London,” said Nick Jeffery, the operator’s CEO. “The move from 4G to 5G is critical to the plans we have to drive innovations in tech and digital connectivity. We want to help make London one of the most advanced connected cities in the world.”

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