London - a 56k City in a Gigabit world?

22 March 2016

JLT Specialty was delighted to host a joint breakfast seminar on Friday 4 March at our London headquarters on behalf of the City Property Association and the British Property Federation entitled London: a 56K City in a Gigabit World?

Bill Gloyn, a former treasurer and past-President of the City Property Association and former partner at JLT European Real Estate welcomed guests, CPA and BPF members and gave a nostalgic look back at how technology has changed over the years. In introducing the guest speakers, Bill emphasized how London needs to keep ‘upping its game’ if it wants to remain as the leading business capital of the world.

Simon Taylor, Head of Asset Management at Derwent London, looked at what commercial landlords are and should be doing to meet occupiers’ technology needs and how the business driver for buildings is now about attracting and keeping the best talent. Key to this is the ability to provide fast and resilient fibre links to meet the ever-increasing service demands. Delays caused by inadequate infrastructure are a major issue and a big challenge for landlords.

Simon described how initiatives like Derwent London’s White Collar Factory, with pre-installed connectivity, can help make it quick and easy for incoming tenants but feels that service providers need to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach, rather than acting as a monopoly.

Clara Maguire, Chief Operating Officer at ‘We are Pop Up’, described how her company delivers a fast and efficient way to rent short-term retail space for the ‘on-line’ generation. Key to this is the ability for these businesses to be able to set up and connect quickly. The challenge for London and commercial landlords is in responding to how people want to use a ‘connected’ city.

William Newton, UK Director for WiredScore, gave an overview of how their programme, which was launched in conjunction with the Mayor of London, was designed to collect information about the internet connectivity and infrastructure of commercial buildings providing publicly available information through their certification scheme to businesses looking for office space.

Looking at what tenants require, William stated that their main concerns are:

  1. How quickly can the internet be set up?
  2. What is the resilience of the internet in their building going to be like?
  3. Price (by speed) and how many providers are available to them.

Comparing London with New York, William said that connectivity in London is surprisingly good and that many property owners are keen to engage with the programme. While New York is currently quicker to adapt to new technologies, William feels that the future certainly looks bright for London.

Steven Bage, Strategic Infrastructure Advisor to the City of London Corporation, informed the audience that the City currently has around 10 business grade fibre providers but that many smaller businesses cannot afford this level of service. For many smaller companies, ADSL copper broadband internet speed is as low as 2MB in some areas.

Another major issue in the City is the currently ‘patchy’ mobile coverage and the need for 4G ‘umbrella’ service to support Smart Cities aspirations and agile working. The City is undertaking a wireless concession that will offer up CoL assets for the housing of mobile equipment.

For most businesses, broadband delivery on time remains a key concern, with delays mainly due to both street works and the current protracted wayleave process. In order to address the latter, the City of London Corporation has carried out a project to develop a standardized wayleave and is hopeful that this will be ready from May 2016. It is anticipated that the adoption of this document will certainly help speed up the whole process allowing quick and affordable connections to be made. The project has the backing of Digital Minister Ed Vaizey and key property and telecoms trade associations.

Steven ended by giving two key challenges for the City:

  1. To deal with in-building mobile coverage problems, particularly for older buildings; and
  2. To provide some guidance for business tenants, many of whom need education around at what point to order IT infrastructure before moving into new offices.

Anthony Duggan, Partner at Deloitte, highlighted the time it takes to get IT infrastructure up and running as being a huge problem for companies but stated that this is by no means a new issue and not one that has held London back in any way.

Research carried out by Deloitte has found that London is the ‘high skills’ capital of the world, with 1.7m high-skilled workers compared with 1.2m in New York and just 600,000 in Paris. Anthony asked “should we worry?” and answered that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels but must look to the future to ensure that we maintain our position. Although technology will keep catching up with the internet speeds we need it is, however, imperative that we keep on top of it.

For further information, please contact Terence Edwards, Partner, Real Estate on +44(0)20 7528 4237

contact Terence Edwards
Partner