Broadband: What About the Urban Not Spots?

London consistently tops the league of global cities on a whole host of measure from sustainability, quality of life, tax competitiveness and most desirable place to live and work. London is truly the world’s greatest city.

Yet surprisingly, at the same time London ranks 26th out of 33 European Capital cities in terms of internet download speed, averaging just 25.44 Mbps, compared to 80.14Mbps in Bucharest and 78.6 Mbps in Paris. To maintain our position as the world’s greatest city, we need to deliver not only superfast broadband tomorrow, but build a technical infrastructure fit for the long-term future.

Superfast broadband is defined as speeds of 24Mbps or above. The Government’s ambition is to provide 95% of the UK with those speeds or higher by 2017, but by the end of this decade, it is estimated that consumers and business will need 165Mbps average download speed.

We need to be planning now for the next generation of ultra-fast broadband and mobile network to ensure London can be a Capital city which maximises the opportunities from ever increasing demand for content on demand and on the go through to the prospects of an Internet of Things, connecting everything including the kitchen sink to the web.

The Mayor has already pledged to deliver 5G mobile capacity by 2020, with the possibility of download speeds up to 1Tbps, but as we stand today only 47 per cent of premises in Westminster have access to superfast broadband and download speeds can be very slow and variable.

Falling through the gaps between Government funding for rural broadband to meet the target for superfast broadband coverage to reach 90 per cent of the UK by 2016 and the market led implementation, a recent House of Lords report concluded “we find it unacceptable that there are still urban areas experiencing internet ‘not spots’, which is hampering…the UK’s international competitiveness.”

The report challenges the incoming Government in May 2015 to prioritise infrastructure delivery to secure the UK’s position as a digital leader. But even delivering this target, for the majority superfast broadband will only deliver 24Mbps, not the 165Mbps needed for the future.

When it comes to broadband speed, mobile coverage, and 4G the Capital’s infrastructure is creaking. For residents and businesses in Westminster this simply is not good enough. Failure to act now will store up even worse future problems, planning now for the next phase of technological development is critical. London as the World’s greatest City must be ready to defend that title.

With record numbers of people living and working in London, demand for download capacity will only grow. London has the highest rate of internet use within UK regions with 90.3 per cent of those aged 16+ having accessed the internet, compared with over 20% of people in Northern Ireland who have never used the internet. Tackling ‘not-spots’ to deliver seamless transition between fixed-line broadband, mobile internet and workplace will enable London to stay ahead of the competition.

While there is plenty of work to do, which I am delighted is being spearheaded by the Conservative Technology Forum, the good news is we are already taking the first steps with Virgin announcing £3bn of investment that will benefits areas with high demand. The network can offer broadband speeds of up to 152Mbps, and this investment will deliver much needed capacity expansion which has seen demand on its network grow at a rate of around 60 percent a year which – leading to a 10,000 percent uplift in demand in just 10 years. Residents and businesses should register at www.virginmedia.com/cablemystreet to ensure their area benefits from the single largest investment in digital infrastructure in the country for more than a decade.

Test your own download speed here.

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