If Londoners can agree on anything, it’s probably that we’re living in unpredictable times. The open, accessible, thriving London of twelve months ago seems like a different world. As Coronavirus continues to threaten the health of the country and the economy, it’s already clear that life as we know it is undergoing a profound, swift and possibly irreversible change. It’s also clear that no sector has been left untouched, and that every business across the capital is having to make new decisions about its future.
Those decisions have big consequences for London’s commercial landlords. In this post we wanted to look at the impact of Coronavirus on central London office space, and what the ‘new normal’ could look like in the future.
For many firms who are renting office space in central London, the last few months have been a chance to re-evaluate the space that they need. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently reported that, in April 2020, “46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” If even a small proportion of the managers of these firms are reconsidering how much office space they need in future, there could be trouble in store for commercial landlords.
But there are positives too. A recent article from commercial real estate platform Costar claimed that flexible office spaces are likely to be beneficiaries of the slow return to work. If companies move to a model under which their staff permanently mix working from home and the office, they will be looking for a space that reacts and responds to those changing patterns.
Of course, there will be intense competition between landlords to lure these office tenants back. So what might tempt them? If we are all going to be moving around more, there may be two things that commercial tenants may want to see.
Firstly, an ability for all staff to connect and participate, regardless of where in London they’re based that day. Around 15% of the capital’s connections are ‘full fibre’ – that is, they rely purely on the most modern fibre optic connections that deliver faster speeds and better reliability. Older, slower connections don’t necessarily give teams connectivity they need to participate fully in meetings and conferences online.
Secondly, when staff do come into the office, an ability to get down to work quickly and deliver if they’re only going to be there for a day, or even a few hours. According to Property Week, “up to 72 minutes of our working day can be lost as a result of slow and outdated technology or poor connectivity.” This is not going to be acceptable, to managers and staff alike.
The pandemic has made clear that broadband is now a ‘fourth utility’ alongside water, electricity and gas. That’s why we’re having ever more conversations with commercial landlords about installing our full fibre connectivity into their buildings. If you’d like to be next, we’d love to talk to you.
It’s now been several months since large numbers of Londoners were instructed to work from home. Over the summer, as speculation about a return to office life began to increase, we asked YouGov, a leading pollster, to investigate if Londoners want to keep working from home after lockdown, and what would stop them.
The research found that a major blocker to continued homeworking is broadband. A majority of the Londoners surveyed said that they wanted to carry on working from home after lockdown ends – but only if their broadband improves. In fact, 59% of London residents would want to keep working from home at least some days of the week if their broadband was faster and more reliable.
We also asked how many of them had had problems with their broadband speed or reliability. We found that two-thirds of Londoners have experienced problems with their broadband speed or reliability since lockdown started. 43.4% of those polled said they had reliability issues, such as connection drop outs, while 22.6% have encountered issues with their speed.
Given that most internet users in London are still using copper in parts of their connection, this is not that surprising. A lot of the copper that Londoners rely on to communicate, stream and work online has been in the ground since the last century, when it was installed as telephones were rolled out. It was never designed to carry internet traffic, and, many Londoners are realising that copper just can’t deliver the speeds they need.
Finally we found that more than one in five (22.1%) of respondents reported feeling more stressed because of their connection problems, 12.7% reporting they had been unable to relax at home and a further 12.6% said their connectivity had had an impact on their productivity.
The pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons. One of them is that, beyond doubt, London’s broadband infrastructure needs an urgent upgrade. If individual boroughs, or the entire city, go back into lockdown over winter, the priority of this urgent infrastructure project is only going to rise.
At G.Network we’re working hard to rebuild London’s broadband connectivity, laying brand new fibre in the ground with no copper mixed into our network. Because of this, we can offer 900 mbps to our residential customers and up to 10 gig for our business customers.
Find out more about our tariffs here
Why we’re paying the London Living Wage
This week, G.Network became an accredited London Living Wage employer. We were recognised by the London Living Wage Foundation for the fact that all of our staff, contractors and subcontractors’ staff are all paid at least a real Living Wage.
The London Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage which is set by the government. The Living Wage is calculated independently, and reflects the cost of living in London. The calculation is performed every year.
As an organisation, we’re delighted to be accredited by the Foundation. We chose to become a Living Wage employer because we recognise that everyone who works for G.Network, including our apprentices, subcontractors and temporary staff, needs to be able to support a life outside work. As a London-focused company, we’re all too aware of the costs of living in our amazing capital city.
Despite the pandemic, we’re continuing to grow as a company. If there is one lesson that has been learned during lockdown, it’s that London needs better broadband. Our network is expanding across the capital every day, and we’re going to need more G.Networkers to help us fulfil our mission to rebuild London’s broadband from the fibre up. And our London Living Wage accreditation is yet another sign that we’re also here to support our staff, and to give back to the communities in which we operate.
If you’re interested in joining us, check out our job opportunities. They’re all listed on our vacancy page.
In May 2020 Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, published the latest in its “Connected Nations” series of reports. Connected Nations is a snapshot of the growth of mobile and fixed broadband services across the UK, as well as how people are using them.
Here at G.Network we keep a keen eye on the data tables for London boroughs. We’ve looked at the latest data, and we’ve drawn a few conclusions from it.
Most starkly, there is a wide inequality of access to full-fibre broadband services in different boroughs. Some have made huge progress in recent years. In Westminster for example where G.Network has been very active in the last few years, only 11% of residents and businesses could access full-fibre broadband connections in 2017. That number has accelerated to almost 40% in the latest figures, and is rising fast. At the other end of the scale, there was no full fibre in Bromley in 2017, and only 1.1% of residents and businesses can get it today.
With the rapid deployment of full fibre in some boroughs, the gap between the most- and least- connected is growing: in 2017, the most-connected borough was Tower Hamlets, at 28% availability, while a number of areas languished at just over zero. Now, in London’s best-connected borough, 49% of residents have access to upgraded full-fibre connections – while Bromley residents are still on 1.1%. With so many people still working from home, rolling out upgraded broadband will become an increasingly urgent priority for policymakers in the next few months and years,
Another figure we’ll be watching out for in the end-of-year update is the growth in data use on the fastest and the slowest connections. So far, the data has clearly demonstrated that the faster a connection, the more data people use. Again, taking the example of Westminster, the average internet user consumed 127.9 GB of data in 2017, a figure which has now soared to 300 GB. Westminster dwellers on slower connections only used 124 GB of data on average last year, vs 413 for those on the fastest. There is clearly a hunger amongst London residents and businesses for better connectivity with the growth of data hungry applications and services, and full-fibre connectivity is best-placed to meet it.
Full-fibre connectivity has hugely improved in London over the past four years – especially In boroughs with concentrated rollouts, such as Westminster. But, as the latest Connected Nations makes clear, while a lot has been achieved, there is much more to do. The UK comes 35th out of 38th for the number of fibre connectivity according to a recent OECD report, and if London is to retain its position as a tier one world city, its residents and businesses require the connectivity to live, work, trade and connect with the rest of the world.
If you want to find out more about how G.Network is rebuilding London’s broadband then register your interest here