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Boris Johnson’s pet boffin calls for 5G for London by 2020

The Mayor of London’s 2050 London Infrastructure Plan is calling for London to be the first capital city to deploy a 5G broadband network. 

The plan lays out a series of goals to meet the transport and connectivity demands of an expected population of 11 million in the next 50 years, which includes the rollout of a next-gen mobile broadband network. 

Mayor of London Boris Johnson wants London to cement its reputation as the tech capital of Europe and is aiming for a 5G network to be live by 2020. 

'Nope, I can't live stream the cricket. If only London had 5G.'
‘Nope, I can’t live stream the cricket. If only London had 5G.’

In collaboration with the University of Surrey, home of the UK’s 5G test centre, the infrastructure would be deployed in the capital first, before extending outwards shortly after. 

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, head of the Centre for Communication Systems Research at the University of Surrey, said: “London should be the first capital city in the advanced economy countries to deploy [a] 5G broadband network to alleviate expected capacity crunch by 2020s. This will give the sensation of infinite capacity.”

Trials of so-called ‘5G’ technology have demonstrated gigabit speeds, suggesting that HD movies could be downloaded on phones in a matter of seconds.  

The EU and South Korea are hoping that 5G broadband will help connect smart homes and cars to smart city grids, allowing for improved traffic flow management in a manner similar to what’s happening in Chattanooga in the US. 

Boris Ivanovic, chairman of London-based ISP Hyperoptic, welcomed the plans but said it’s early days for 5G. Ivanovic said: “It’s important to remember that 5G is a long way off – it’s currently still in lab testing and there are other barriers to rollout, namely the evolution to IPTV.

“5G requires new frequencies and the obvious candidate is the frequencies that are currently allocated to digital terrestrial TV.  In the future, as home TVs completely move to the IP platform, these frequencies will be freed up – but there needs to be an underlying fibre-to-the-home infrastructure to enable this shift.”

Telecoms regulator Ofcom wants a spectrum auction, where companies bid for slices of the 700MHz band, to begin in 2018. This will see airwave space that’s been used for Freeview and YouView signals cleared for mobile broadband services. 

We won’t know what kind of speeds to expect, or how it will be used, until standards have been set. The University of Surrey aims help develop and standardise 5G by pooling the talents of PhD students and researchers, with the help of companies like EE, O2, Vodafone and Samsung.   

As well as giving Londoners faster mobile broadband, Johnson spoke of plans to turn bus stops and street lights into access points, increasing the availability of WiFi around the city. 

Johnson also wants more accurate information about download speeds in particular properties to become available, to help prospective buyers. This is something that property listings site Rightmove has already started doing, in conjunction with broadband analysts Point Topic. Under the Mayor’s plans, this could become more widespread. 

Consultation on the 2050 London Infrastructure Plan will begin over the coming months. 

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