UK network provider Openreach has announced a further 79 exchanges where it is planning to stop selling its legacy analogue copper-based services and instead focus on providing full-fibre connections to deliver digital services.
Openreach proposes that by December 2025, the old analogue phone network (PSTN) will have reached the end of its life and that new, digital services will be in use. To make good on its plan nationally, the company will need to transition more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK onto new digital services.
Following the decision to shut down the PSTN, it was agreed to test processes for migrating customers to fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper services and the wholesale line rental (WLR) products that rely on them.
The programme is intended to result in homes and businesses not being able to buy copper broadband if they are upgrading, regrading or switching telecoms provider, and instead will only be able to order fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP or full-fibre) broadband networks. Voice services will be an add-on to broadband, rather than a service in its own right.
When 75% of the homes and businesses connected to a particular exchange can get full-fibre, end-users will not be able to buy the old copper products if full-fibre is available at their premises.
Salisbury was the first exchange in the UK to move to stop-sell status in December 2020, and in May 2021 a trial began in the Suffolk town of Mildenhall. Openreach chose these test sites because it regarded them as typical exchange areas, representative of others across the UK in terms of geography, the range of communications providers (such as BT, PlusNet, Sky, TalkTalk and Zen) offering Openreach services and the mix of businesses and consumers.
The 79 exchanges involved in the latest step of the programme cover 500,000 premises in locations around the UK, including north Wales, the far west of England, rural Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Sussex coast, the home counties and areas of metropolitan regions such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol. This brings the total number of exchange areas now notified for “stop sell” to more than 450 exchanges covering about four million premises.
Openreach is giving communication providers 12 months’ notification that it will no longer be selling copper-based products and services in those areas.
James Lilley, director for managed customer migrations at Openreach said: “Twelve months ago, we informed our communication provider customers that we would stop selling copper products in exchanges that reach 75% full-fibre coverage. This is now a reality for 134 fibre exchanges covering 1.3 million premises across the UK in what is a major stepping-stone in our 10 to 15-year journey to move from a copper network to full-fibre.
“Over the next five years, we’ll upgrade some 14 million analogue lines – including the now ageing traditional landline telephone service – to digital all-internet protocol (All-IP). Every quarter, we will announce more stop-sell exchanges as we continue to upgrade the UK’s digital infrastructure and build our full-fibre network to 25 million homes and business by 2026.”
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