O2 has announced it is working with the City of London Corporation to deliver a free, public access wifi network, which will offer internet access anywhere within the Square Mile. It’s intended to ensure that the City will be in a good position to become an early adopter of 5G.

According to the company, the multi-million pound project is one of the largest investments in wireless infrastructure ever seen in London. The new network will deliver wireless services across all mobile networks.

The contract has been awarded to Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL) in conjunction with O2. CTIL is set to build 4G mobile “small cells”, which will be positioned on lampposts, street signs, buildings and CCTV columns, among other things. They will then provide enhanced mobile coverage at street level.

O2 said it would partner with CTIL to build the wifi network, which will be free to use. The company added that it will be fully operational by the autumn of 2017.

It is intended for the new network to be more technically advanced than those found in other leading global financial centres, including New York. O2 said that the equipment will enable those using the network to make use of high bandwidth services like video calling and video on demand over the free City wifi after registering only once.

Derek McManus, chief operating officer at O2, said: “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.”

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