London Mayor announces £10m boost for broadband ‘fibre backbone’ using tube tunnels

Photograph: Bidgee.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced £10m in investment for a ‘fibre backbone’ of gigabit-speed connectivity across the city, in order to make the capital ready for the roll-out of 5G.

The move represents City Hall’s largest ever investment in an aim to replace copper cables with fibre optics to support faster connectivity for so-called ‘not spot’ areas suffering from a poor connection.

Local London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE AM welcomed the move, and called on the government to “crack on” with the promise to achieve full-fibre coverage across the UK by 2025.

Arnold said: “With full-fibre coverage across Hackney and Islington averaging out at only 10 per cent, this funding will provide a significant boost for households and businesses currently based in ‘not spot’ areas, who have been held back by slow and unreliable access to vital digital services.

“By using existing public and transport infrastructure it will be possible to deliver better connectivity across the capital.

“It’s good to see that City Hall is finding pragmatic solutions to the many obstacles and high costs that come with replacing existing cabling.”

The new cabling, which will be laid along Transport for London tunnels as well as between public buildings, will start with improving connectivity to 118,000 properties in south London, with the Mayor covering the cost of linking the cables to community centres and libraries.

Gigabit-speed connectivity is the next generation of broadband internet service, which is typically delivered over fibre optic cables all the way to the home, and provides speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second – fast enough to download a two hour-long high def film in 25 seconds.

Most homes are connected with copper cabling, with only around 11 per cent of properties able to access full fibre connections, comparing to 70 per cent in Spain and Sweden.

It is not yet known specifically how much of the £10m will be accessible for Hackney.

London 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.

“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.”

Hackney Council were approached for comment, but had not responded by time of going to press.