25th Anniversary series: 2009 – Assessment of the City’s I.C.T. Infrastructure
As broadband connectivity soared and electronic trading became fundamental to the City’s operation, the City of London Corporation (CoLC) commissioned SAMI Consulting to conduct a study of the ICT infrastructure and the future ICT requirements of businesses in the City and its immediate fringes.
SAMI conducted a series of interviews during November and December 2008, when many organisations were dealing with the impact of the financial crash. Nonetheless, the City’s ICT infrastructure was seen as being as sufficiently important for 62 people to make the time to respond.
The core question addressed was what should the CoLC do to ensure continued effective ICT infrastructure support for Financial Services in the City and fringes?
The liberalisation of the UK telecoms market following the 2003 Communications Act meant that there was substantial competition to supply ICT services to the City. Indeed, at that time, large organisations and SMEs both concurred that London’s ICT infrastructure, was “as good as anywhere in the world”.
From the interviews, SAMI identified five key aspects of the ICT infrastructure:
- network connectivity,
- data centre capability,
- electrical power supplies,
- security and resilience, and
- skills of the people.
Network connectivity was felt to be adequate for the next decade, even allowing for doubling of demand every year. Mobile technologies were expected to start to deliver reliable broadband services, and be increasingly used for “the last mile”. London was well served by worldwide network operators, and had numerous suppliers of high specification fibre connectivity.
Data centre capacity: Demand for data centre space was projected to continue to increase. The EC estimated that power demand from data centres would nearly double from 2007 to 2020. Many existing City data centres would require replacing. That meant that additional electrical power supplies would be needed – potentially a major problem for the City.
Security and resilience of the infrastructure was seen as important for many companies, including threat of electronic attack. Security concerns were leading many organisations to locate data centres physically separately. The need for a highly secure and resilient mobile network for use in an emergency was flagged, following the problems seen during the July 2005 bombings.
The skills to support the ICT infrastructure were seen as a strength of the City, but competition from other financial services centres and other industries was expected to bring new pressures.
The key conclusion was that the City was well supplied with ICT infrastructure services; that future financial services would be increasingly dependent on ICT; and that electrical power supplies were the least tractable part of the supply chain.
Consequently, the key recommendations made – that CoLC acted on – were:
- co-ordinate a 10 year ICT Infrastructure Plan covering the five aspects listed above and in particular begin discussions with the electrical power supplier, EDF Energy Networks
- spearhead a discussion with the government and regulators on the perception that power availability and cost are a constraint on the competitiveness of the City;
- sponsor a commercially available secure and resilient mobile network, especially focused on availability during sustained emergencies.
These actions have kept the City at the forefront of electronic trading.
Written by Huw Williams.