Networking company Cisco has selected telecommunications services provider O2 for a multi-million pound project to roll out free public-access Wi-Fi in the City of London.
In conjunction with Cornerstone Telecommunication Infrastructure (CTIL) and the City of London Corporation, Cisco will deploy outdoor access-point technology in order to offer internet connectivity to more than 400,000 people working in the Square Mile.
The company claims that the project will be one of the largest investments in wireless infrastructure ever seen in London, giving Londoners access to a more technically advanced network than their global counterparts in other financial hubs, such as New York and Singapore.
“Embarrassing” state of London Wi-Fi
The news will likely be welcomed by Londoners, many of whom suffer from “embarrassingly” poor Wi-Fi that risks harming the local economy, according to a report on the state of London’s digital connectivity issued last month by the London Assembly Regeneration Committee.
“Free Wi-Fi connectivity is now a prerequisite for any city looking to drive innovation and compete on a globe scale,” said Peter Karlstromer, senior vice president in Cisco’s global service provider business in EMEA and Russia.
“The deployment with O2, and partnership with CTIL and the City of London, is a perfect example of the role that cities can play in connecting people. We are excited to continue to support the roll out of free Wi-Fi across London and ensure that next-generation connectivity is accessible to everyone.”
Continued investment required
O2’s wireless network infrastructure will be supported by Cisco’s Aironet 1560 Series outdoor access points. The access points will be installed throughout the City to ensure there is sufficient bandwidth for the multitude of devices now in use, and should pave the way for the adoption of 5G technology – something the UK government is keen to pursue.
The project is set to replace the current Wi-Fi service provided by The Cloud, launched back in 2007, and will be fully operational by Autumn 2017. Once up and running, Cisco says the network will enable users who register on a one-time-only basis to enjoy high-bandwidth services like video calling and video streaming over free City Wi-Fi.
London is not shying away from the opportunities that digital technology is bringing to cities. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already announced a £7 million digital talent program to encourage more young people to get into tech, and continues his search for a chief digital officer to kickstart the city’s wider digital transformation plans.
Speaking about the investment, O2 chief operating officer Derek McManus suggested that London needed to create a Wi-Fi network that enables “the capital to help retain its position as a leading global center.”
“Continued investment in infrastructure is essential to maintain the UK’s reputation as a digital leader and we needed a partner that would be able to provide cutting-edge technology to help us realize this,” he said.
Cisco told Internet of Business that it currently has no plans to roll the network out beyond the City of London.