The City of London Corporation supports and promotes London as the world's leading international financial and business centre, which requires the best possible connectivity whether wired broadband or wireless. Whilst the City already benefits from 10 fibre optic networks which offer multi gigabit leased lines, many of the City’s 13,500 small businesses and residents are unable to afford such services and until recently have had little choice but to use copper ADSL broadband, offering speeds as slow as 2Mbps. Similarly our mobile networks can sometimes struggle with network coverage and capacity in the Square Mile due to its narrow streets and tall buildings.
The City of London’s “Superfast City” programme has sought to address these issues and has secured commitments from broadband operators to build new affordable gigabit broadband networks throughout the City and outlying housing estates within 2017. The programme will also deliver a free world leading gigabit WiFi network (more advanced than New York’s) within 2017, and will build a network of 400 4G small cells by 2019, creating attractive market conditions to ensure that the City is an early adopter of 5G.
Facilitating the roll out of digital infrastructure must now be a leading priority for all Local Authorities, who should consider the following steps:
- Dedicated resource - should be provided by Local Authorities to identify areas unserved by affordable faster broadband, to undertake demand aggregation with landlords, developers and tenants, to encourage investment from gigabit broadband operators and to assist in expediting street works permits and wayleaves.
- Standardised wayleave toolkit - Local Authorities should adopt and promote the City of London Corporation’s standardised wayleave toolkit to speed up installation times, (endorsed by DCMS, the Mayor of London and developed in conjunction with the City of London Law Society and property and telecoms industries).
- Identify barriers to investment - Local Authorities and partner organisations (Local Government Association, Great London Authority etc) should collaborate to identify and overcome barriers to investment for new market entrants such as Alternative Network providers (“Altnets”), some of whom have so far only rolled out gigabit broadband services outside of London.
- Early starts – Local Authorities’ highways departments can consider “early starts” to allow quicker installation of broadband services where possible.
- Enabling infrastructure – Local planning policies should reflect the need for developers and landlords to be accountable in providing appropriate enabling infrastructure for wired and wireless equipment in commercial office space (as promoted by the Mayor of London’s “Connectivity rating Scheme” operated by Wired Score).
- Social Housing - Non-exclusive access to social housing estates should be offered to wired and wireless broadband operators, to provide residents with a wide choice of affordable gigabit connectivity services, with low priced options being offered for residents on low incomes or benefits.
- Wireless coverage roadmap – Local Authorities should engage mobile operators to understand any coverage and capacity challenges within the borough and to identify new development and high footfall areas. This will help when forecasting future demand and infrastructure requirements.
- Buildings / street furniture assets – Local Authorities should consider offering council owned assets (buildings and street furniture) to Mobile Network Operators on a non-discriminatory basis for the deployment of WiFi and mobile infrastructure.
- Pathway to 5G - Engagement with the mobile industry should be undertaken to establish the next steps in encouraging early adoption of 5G services, available in 2020.
- Indoor coverage – Local planning policies should promote greater indoor mobile coverage in commercial office and retail developments.
- De minimis small cell unit – collaboration with mobile operators and equipment vendors, should occur to agree mobile / WiFi units that could be agreed as being de minimis / permitted development in all Local Authorities.
- New development – Local Authorities should approach mobile network operators and property developers to develop best practice guidance around the design of small cell mobile and WiFi equipment into the fabric of new developments in line with planning requirements.
Guest blog by Steven Bage, Strategic Infrastructure Advisor, City of London Corporation for techUK's "Good to Great Connectivity for the UK" Week.