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London’s £10 million investment to use Tube tunnels for fibre to the premises

The initiative represents City Hall’s biggest investment in connectivity to date.


Large areas of London are set to be upgraded from copper cables to full-fibre optics using the Tube network and public buildings, following a £10 million investment launched by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.


The upgrade, which Khan said constitutes the biggest investment in connectivity that City Hall has ever made, aims to give more Londoners access to gigabit-speed fibre to the premises (FTTP) connectivity by tackling ‘not spot’ areas. It will begin with 118,000 properties in south London.


How it will work


New fibre-optic cabling will be laid along TfL tunnels to create a ‘fibre backbone’ across London. The £10 million will cover the installation costs of linking these cables to around 450 public buildings, such as community centres and libraries.


London currently lags behind other cities due to its reliance on copper.


Another aim of the programme is to reduce the cost to providers of laying ‘last-mile’ cabling between the public buildings and Londoners’ homes and businesses.


This should particularly benefit areas with little or no existing fibre, which had previously been deemed financially unviable.


Why fibre?


Currently around 90 per cent of London is served by fibre which only reaches local telecoms exchanges. Most homes are then connected with copper cabling, which offers lower speeds. FTTP is delivered via fibre-optic cables all the way to properties, providing speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second (one gigabit per second) – fast enough to download a two-hour-long film in high definition in just 25 seconds.


London currently lags behind other cities due to its reliance on copper: only around 11 per cent of properties can order full-fibre connections, compared to 70 per cent in Spain and Sweden.


Towards 5G


More local fibre will also pave the way for 5G mobile connectivity, which requires an extensive full-fibre network.


Mayor Sadiq 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.


"I hope this provides the catalyst for further investment from the public and private sectors."


“This represents the largest investment in connectivity City Hall has ever made – the funding I’m announcing today unlocks the potential for us to use the Tube network and public buildings in bringing gigabit-speed connectivity to Londoners currently putting up with poor service.


“I hope this provides the catalyst for further investment from the public and private sectors – I’m urging them to match my ambitions to get all Londoners connected.”


Chief Technology Officer at TfL, Shashi Verma, said: “We’re delighted that we can help increase connectivity across the city by using the London Underground to help provide better broadband internet. This work is on top of our wider plans to remove one of London’s biggest not-spots by bringing 4G to the Tube network, with the first section on track to go live from March 2020.”


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