For over 300 years our London estate in Mayfair and Belgravia has adapted to changes in the city around it. The big challenges facing London today mean the estate will have to respond.
Last year, we announced three new partnerships to transform London’s digital landscape. The first was the creation of a new ultrafast fibre broadband network called Prime Fibre, in collaboration with VX Fibre. Prime Fibre is the UK’s first multi sector open access network, which gives both residents and businesses access to gigabit broadband speeds and a choice of internet service provider. That ability to choose provider will grow competition and improve customer experience - and of course, we won’t need to see our roads continually dug up.
The second partnership was the UK’s first urban co-investment deal between a major landowner and Openreach. We committed to upgrading broadband infrastructure across our London estate. We’ll bring gigabit broadband speeds across 130 residential and business sites; while more than 600 homes and businesses in the area will benefit from significant upgrades with superfast speeds of up to 80 Megabits (Mbps) per second. To give you an idea, 80 Mpbs allows you to stream 16 episodes of The Crown on Netflix, in HD, simultaneously.
The third partnership, completing our £2 million digital investment programme, is with WiFi SPARK and mobile phone operators. We are bringing high-quality, high-speed and free WiFi to our visitors, workers and residents, with access speeds of up to 300 Mbps. We’re filling mobile ‘not spots’ and bringing new and better 4G connections to provide coverage across our London estate with all operators by adding five new masts.
We’re on track to deliver all this. It’s hard to believe that, before we started, this part of London was in the 5% worst performing in the country for digital connections. When we finish in the next four years, it will be in the top 5%. Such a move comes with risks, and not just financial. For years, the market has discussed the merits of new broadband infrastructure in the West End. The development of new technology always offers the prospect of better, cheaper and faster. But we concluded that the reputational cost of doing nothing cut through that discussion. We concluded this investment would be good for business and good for the city. We wanted to help future-proof the West End’s success for locals, Londoners and visitors.
We will bring down barriers for local businesses and enhance consumers’ use of the internet. We’ll see SMEs and independent businesses gain a competitive edge and adopt new models. We’ll meet demand from residents and customers to have faster and smoother access to learning, e-commerce and leisure. And we’ll support retailers by helping to create busy street-life and integrated districts. Our investment, our long-term perspective as a business and the unique nature of our places combine to allow us to champion London’s digital evolution.