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London's full-fibre broadband to be delivered via Tube tunnels

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced the latest stage in the upgrade to full-fibre broadband in the city, including delivering infrastructure through London Underground tunnels.

Full-fibre broadband – which promises to allow users to download a HD feature film in less than 30 seconds – is only available to 11 per cent of London properties, with most Londoners relying on outdated copper cables to carry internet traffic the ‘last mile’ to their properties.

The £10m project to replace copper with fibre-optic cables will link homes and businesses to the internet via public buildings like libraries and local community centres. Writing in City AM, City Hall’s chief digital officer Theo Blackwell said that the hundreds of kilometres of cabling laid out throughout the Tube network to provide connectivity to commuters will play a major role in the broadband rollout.

“We’re delighted that we can help increase connectivity across the city by using the London Underground to help provide better broadband internet,” said Shashi Verma, CTO for Transport for London, “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.”

The first properties to benefit from the rollout will be 118,000 properties in South London that struggle with particularly poor connectivity. According to City Hall, the extra funding will bring its total investment in full-fibre broadband to more than £30m to connect more than 400,000 London homes.

“London’s future digital connectivity will be built on fibre,” said Khan. “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.”

Earlier this month, Hull became the first place in the UK to have city-wide full-fibre broadband coverage. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put full-fibre broadband at the core of his domestic pledges, promising a complete rollout by 2025, although critics in Parliament have argued that this pledge does not account for the extent of the 'digital divide' between rural and urban areas in the UK.

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