HappyAlex - Fotolia

City of London Corporation launches ultrafast Wi-Fi network

City of London’s free Wi-Fi network is being backed by O2 and is supposed to deliver browsing speeds of up to 180Mbps

The City of London Corporation has launched a world-leading Wi-Fi network offering users outdoor broadband speeds of 50-180Mbps across the entire Square Mile.

Over the past 28 weeks, a consortium comprising mobile operator O2, passive infrastructure supplier Cornerstone Technology Infrastructure (CTIL), Virgin Media, UK Power Networks and highways contractor JB Riney has constructed a network of more than 150 Cisco Aironet next-generation wireless access points (APs) using street furniture.

The network will be free to use and will require a one-time only registration, said the Corporation, which is introducing the service as part of a 15-year contract with O2 and CTIL to transform connectivity in the City.

“As a global financial centre, we provide services for a diverse range of City occupiers,” said City of London Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuinness. “With nearly 99% of City firms SMEs, 8% of the workforce from the technology, media and telecommunications industry, and a host of startups moving to the City, it is vital that our digital services match the fast-paced needs of our workers.

“We also welcomed over 10 million visitors from around the world to the City in 2015, and they too will be able to benefit from an investment sure to brand the City as hub of connectivity.”

O2 COO Derek McManus said: “We understand the importance of digital connectivity in terms of driving the economy and ensuring that London can continue to compete on a global scale. This is why we are investing in the City of London’s wireless infrastructure, to give people what they need wherever they are – reliable internet on the go.”

The new network has been just over nine months in the making and will replace an existing offering powered by Sky-owned The Cloud.

Read more about wireless networks

London’s historic core is possibly a unique case in terms of outdoor network connectivity in global financial hubs. Because of how the city has developed over hundreds of years, its streets still follow a largely medieval layout, while the growing number of tall buildings often makes it harder for users at street level to receive adequate 4G network signals.

William Newton, president and Emea managing director of network rating organisation WiredScore, which certifies office space for connectivity, said that by complementing existing wired connectivity in the City’s new skyscrapers, the network would help address this problem by enhancing more agile ways of working.

“By implementing this free-to-use Wi-Fi network, the City of London Corporation clearly recognises the potential of broadband for driving productivity and growth,” said Newton.

Read more on Wireless networking