Thursday 24 October 2019 4:40 pm

London set for 'fibre backbone' to boost internet speeds

New digital infrastructure will be built in London’s Tube tunnels in a “small but significant step” toward having full-fibre broadband across the capital.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will spend £10m on creating a “fibre backbone” to enable gigabit broadband – internet speeds of 1,000 megabits per second – in 118,000 homes in South London.

Read more: Full-fibre broadband will power our next industrial revolution

Average internet speeds in the UK are currently one-twentieth as fast as gigabit broadband.

The network will be created by using the Tube network and public buildings to link optic fibre cables to properties.

The scheme will allow for the replacement of some copper wire infrastructure, which provides much slower internet speeds.

Anthony Impey MBE, founder of business broadband company Optimity, said many London businesses had suffered from not having full-fibre broadband.

“Our digital infrastructure really threatens our competitiveness – especially for startups who have been held back,” he said.

“More than ever action needs to be taken, because it’s not just tech businesses anymore – every sector is affected by digital infrastructure.

“Today’s announcement is a small, but significant, step in the right direction.”

London chief digital officer Theo Blackwell MBE said: “At the moment the existing infrastructure has supported London’s growth as one of the great tech cities in the world.

“However, with demand for data set to increase by 30-50 per cent, will it hold up?

“Full-fibre is absolutely needed to support this growth in the future.”

Ninety per cent of London currently has fibre to the node internet.

This involves fibre optic cables connecting to a local telecom exchange and copper wires connecting from this point to individual buildings.

Fibre to the property internet, on the other hand, involves fibre cables connecting straight to individual buildings.

A 2017 study by Frontier Economics found there were £28bn in net benefits of having 100 per cent fibre to the property internet across the UK by 2050.

This was before taking into account wider economic benefits, such as increased productivity.

Read more: Let’s use Tube tunnels to boost London’s broadband connection

Blackwell said the new “fibre backbone” would allow private providers to build off this work to increase the range of full-fibre internet.

“It will make London a much more attractive place for private providers,” he said.