Step change in pace needed in London to deliver Prime Minister’s 2025 target for full fibre
26 September 2019
London First today called for government, local authorities and operators to come together to make full fibre a reality across the capital. While London performs relatively well in superfast connectivity, most experts agree that full fibre (or 5G with fixed fibre connections for backhaul) is the right way to future-proof the telecoms network. In its report, Enhancing Digital Connectivity, the leading business group argues that steps must be taken now if full fibre is to become the norm across the capital and to stop it falling further behind international competitors. This should start with the creation of a Full Fibre Taskforce for London, business rates reform and action from the Government to ensure new builds are automatically connected.
Only 8.1% of premises across the UK are currently connected to full fibre, and only a tenth (11.3%) of London properties have a full fibre to the premise connection. A slow rollout poses risks to London’s competitiveness, as other countries are much further progressed, with Spain expected to complete its rollout within the next couple of years.
London First Policy Director John Dickie said:
“Now more than ever, London needs to be doing all it can to stay competitive. Full fibre and 5G connectivity will be critical in meeting this aspiration in the years to come.
“Action must be taken now to stop the capital falling behind its global counterparts and other parts of the UK. While the challenges to the rollout are complex, the creation of a Full Fibre Taskforce for London would go a long way to starting to tackle them once and for all.”
While some key measures have been taken by the Government via its Barrier Busting Taskforce, and by the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Connected London team, which is promoting a standardised wayleave for mobile (the contractual agreement between landlords and communications providers), London First’s report identifies five critical further steps, which would bolster London’s ability to keep pace:
The Government should ensure the business rates regime incentivises investment, for example by extending business rates relief on new fibre to 2025, in line with the Prime Minister’s delivery timeframe;
The Government should consider giving network builders the right to access property and install new connections if set procedures have been followed, as well as making it for all new homes to be connected to full fibre;
Best practice demonstrated by some London boroughs should be adopted by them all, reflecting the leaps forward made by the City of London Corporation, Southwark Council, Hackney Council and Kensington and Chelsea;
Operators should work closely with boroughs to better understand the specific local challenges and help local authority officers to convey the wider community benefits of digital connectivity; and
A Full Fibre Taskforce for London should be created, bringing bring together the GLA, boroughs, landowners, developers and operators to drive forward an action plan to achieve ubiquitous, reliable, high-speed data in London by 2025. London Councils would be well-placed to co-ordinate this group
The report also calls out two key barriers at a local level, which much be tackled to drive a step change in delivery:
Coordination: 32 London boroughs and the City of London grant the planning permissions and prior approvals needed to roll out digital infrastructure but there is no standard approach. Even those with a strong digital strategy are not always able to align this with the application of local planning and highway policy;
Access and ownership: Wayleaves are required before operators can access a property and connect it to the network. Negotiating this access can be slow and challenging, particularly in parts of London where complex ownership structures exist. There is also no automatic right to access new developments, with many new homes still being built without this connectivity.
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