The City of London will soon play host to one of the fastest public Wi-Fi networks available in the UK. That’s because it has now been confirmed that O2 and Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTIL), a joint venture between Vodafone and Telefonica, will build and run the network. The download speeds are planned to eclipse 1Gbps.

The exact costs of the new 15-year contract are unclear, although the City of London Corp (CoLC) describes it as being a ‘multi-million-pound project’ and ‘one of the largest investments in wireless infrastructure ever seen in London’.

Under the plan, the new network will replace the much slower Wi-Fi service provided by Sky-owned operator, The Cloud. The new network should begin its deployment by around late Spring 2017 and become fully operational by Autumn 2017. Once operational, those in the City of London will be access to the network free of charge.

CTIL and O2 will build the 4G (LTE)-based mobile network by using small cells on top of the City’s street furniture, which includes lamp posts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns. This may also come in handy for supporting future deployments of 5G technology, which is scheduled to hit the UK in around 2020.

The CoLC maintains that its network will be more technically advanced than those found in other leading global financial centres, including New York.

State-of-the-art equipment will allow users to enjoy high bandwidth services like video calling and video on demand over free Wi-Fi, although users will be required to register to access it.

Mark Boleat, chair of the CoLC Policy and Resources Committee, comments: “Free, reliable, high-speed wireless internet is a must for any modern, competitive financial centre. That is why I am thrilled to have CTIL deliver this essential project for the Square Mile.

“Soon, residents, visitors, and workers in the City will be able to enjoy uninterrupted wireless connectivity, and this project should ensure that wireless ‘black spots’ in the Square Mile become a thing of the past.”

Derek McManus, COO of O2 UK, adds: “Continued investment in infrastructure is essential to maintain the UK’s reputation as a digital leader. Connectivity plays a central role in supporting the future growth of our economy, enabling us to communicate and trade more easily, attracting overseas business and creating new jobs.

“In fact, our own research tells us that an effective rollout of 5G connectivity will add over £7 billion a year to the economy by 2026.

“That’s why we’re proud to be partnering with the City of London Corporation and CTIL to provide a network that will help London retain its position as a leading global financial centre.”

An amended version of this story recently appeared on Network Communications News.