Quantum memories for light will be essential elements in future long-range quantum communication networks. These memories operate by reversibly mapping the quantum state of light onto the quantum transitions of a material system. For networks, the quantum coherence times of these transitions must be long compared to the network transmission times, approximately 100 ms for a global communication network. Due to a lack of a suitable storage material, a quantum memory that operates in the 1,550 nm optical fibre communication band with a storage time greater than 1 μs has not been demonstrated. Here we describe the spin dynamics of 167Er3+: Y2SiO5 in a high magnetic field and demonstrate that this material has the characteristics for a practical quantum memory in the 1,550 nm communication band. We observe a hyperfine coherence time of 1.3 s. We also demonstrate efficient spin pumping of the entire ensemble into a single hyperfine state, a requirement for broadband spin-wave storage. With an absorption of 70 dB cm−1 at 1,538 nm and Λ transitions enabling spin-wave storage, this material is the first candidate identified for an efficient, broadband quantum memory at telecommunication wavelengths.