A plan to line tube tunnels with fibre optic cables to improve London’s internet connectivity has taken a step forward.

Back in early 2018, TfL announced plans to lay fibre optic cables in the tube tunnels, combined with some space within the stations for the network equipment, and build its own broadband network offering a massive 20Tbps capacity (2000 Gbps).

However, those cables in the tunnels need to get up to the surface where they can be of use.

Now the Mayor of London has announced a £10 million investment linking the tunnel cables with nearby buildings, such as community centres and libraries. That in turn will also make it easier for the private operators to link their networks with the tube-network by connecting at the surface in the community buildings.

Some of the worst of the not-spots happen to run close to existing tube lines, such as a large cluster of poor internet speeds along the Jubilee line between Bermondsey and West Ham, as well as along the Metropolitan and Bakerloo lines around Wembley.

The latest investment will boost internet speeds, starting with 118,000 properties in south London – by tackling ‘not spot’ areas which suffer from poor connectivity.

Secured from City Hall’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), this latest funding joins other investment of £15.4 million from London Councils for west and north London, and £8.5 million for central London from the Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS).

The use of old tunnels under London to improve its communications is not entirely new.

Geo Networks

Thames Water allows its sewers to be used by Geo Networks to carry broadband cables. In the 1980s Cable and Wireless bought up an old network of hydraulic power pipes under the City of London and laid its fibre optic cables through that.

More famously, London Underground was used during WW2 to carry telephone cables for the government. At the time, a bundle of cables could carry a handful of phone calls, but the network being planned by London Underground will be able to deliver millions of lolcats across the city every second.

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4 comments on “Using the London Underground to improve broadband speeds
  1. Jon Jones says:

    This type of plan is not new. It’s been done by the National Grid, British Rail/Railtrack/whatever, Water Companies, etc.

    They usually fail for one simple reason: Access when things break.

    The initial installation of equipment & cables is (relatively) easy to plan in amongst existing works. Getting emergency access to fix broken equipment is much harder.

    I know of one organisation that has some equipment in the underground. They tell me that getting access to it takes around six months of planning with TfL.

  2. Jo W says:

    Not getting excited by this new plan. Bringing faster broadband speeds to London- yes, but only the London that has an underground network. Once again,the southeast of London is left out of the reckoning.
    P.S. That is a large section of London, not just the bit along the Jubilee line.

    • ianvisits says:

      However, North and central London have more “not-spots” than South London, and as the aim is not to increase speed overall, but to reduce the number of not-spots in the capital, then the focus is correctly aimed.

  3. Does this mean we’re going to have connectivity *in* the tunnels?

    Like Taipei does…

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