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Square Mile to get world-class wireless network

Guildhall has recently announced proposals for a ‘new world-class wireless network this year’, which is due to replace the existing free Wi-Fi service provided by the Cloud, being rolled-out from late spring this year.

The full press release can be read on the City’s website – http://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/square-mile-to-get-world-class-wireless-network.

On the face of it, this seems to be very encouraging news, with this new service that will surpass that found in the world’s other major international financial centre – New York.

Following up with officers regarding this new contract, which is due to be finalised and announced in the next few weeks, I’ve been told that the contract will:

  • provide a world leading gigabit Wi-Fi network which will be free to use on an unlimited basis, will be available for use across the Square Mile from May – June 2017, and will be more advanced than our nearest competitor as a financial centre – New York; and will
  • involve building a network of 400 4G small cells by 2019, using City street furniture to provide enhanced mobile coverage at street level. This is the largest project of its kind anywhere in the UK and will place the City in the best position to adopt 5G as soon as it’s available.

 

In addition, the new bidder is undertaking the planning of the network and RF surveys at risk to prevent a void period from The Cloud’s network being switched off and the new network being launched.

In terms of security and monitoring, the network will be built and managed by the same leading telecoms provider, and all traffic will be tunnelled back to the their core Wi-Fi network, where a range of security services and countermeasures will help protect the network from mis-use and attack.

Interestingly, the City ‘has been very clear in its selection criteria that the network cannot be used for accessing illegal, adult or gambling websites’ and the provider will apparently prevent access to such content. Users will have access to all of the provider’s standard user experience monitoring and guidance, and there will be a one-time only registration to gain access to the site.

I also followed-up on the comparison to the free Wi-Fi service currently provided in New York, and have been told that this new City network will be more technologically advanced than the Link NYC network, as it will use a gigabit mesh technology with a 28Ghz wireless backhaul transmission network, and so all of the nodes will have direct line of sight and will interact with each other allowing greater coverage. The current Link NYC model is based on gigabit Wi-Fi hotpots in key locations and cannot offer the same contiguous coverage.

So I’m hopeful that this will be a worthwhile and useful facility, that will become a real asset, but until all the details are known, and we all start trying to use it out on the street, we won’t really know how viable the network will be. I looked back to very similar press releases from 2012, when the current free Wi-Fi service ‘The Cloud’ from BSkyB was launched, which ended up being very disappointing and apparently much under used.

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