Openreach accelerates digital network roll-out

Added vigour to UK’s largest broadband provider’s digital network transformation play, with latest tranche of exchanges across furthest reaches of UK now able to offer digital comms based on full-fibre networks

As it looks to keep on track with its plans to evolve its national communications network by switching off the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in December 2025, BT’s broadband provision division Openreach has announced a further 46 new exchange locations across the UK.

It covers an additional 344,931 premises, where the business is planning to stop selling legacy analogue services to encourage the adoption of new digital services over a full-fibre connection.

BT believes legacy network skills and parts are increasingly difficult to come by, and new digital services such as Voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing and a whole range of apps have become more popular and effective for people communicating with one another.

To realise its plan on a national basis, BT is in the process of transitioning 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, withdraw legacy copper services and the wholesale line rental (WLR) products that rely on them.

Openreach believes that the shift from copper to fibre networks will be every bit as significant as the move from analogue to digital and black and white TV to colour. By eventually retiring analogue phone lines, it said that it will create a simplified network which allows it to meet the enhanced needs of an increasingly digital society.

Openreach said that it will be upgrading just under nine million remaining analogue lines, including the now ageing traditional landline telephone service, to new digital ones.

In practical terms, Openreach has been implementing a UK-wide “stop-sell” on sales of new analogue wholesale line rental (WLR) and related broadband ISP products. To help prepare the transition, Openreach is stopping the sale of copper based analogue services in exchange areas where a majority of premises have access to its full-fibre network.

When a majority (75%) of premises connected to a particular exchange can get full-fibre, customers won’t be able to buy our old copper products. This only applies to anyone who’s signing up to a new contract, whether they’re switching, upgrading or re-grading their service. Customers switching, upgrading or re-grading their service where FTTP isn’t yet available will not be affected.

The exchanges involved in the move cover all parts of the UK and feature what are considered hard-to-reach places that have been traditionally underserved with high-speed broadband. They include the likes of Stonehaven in Scotland’s North East Coast; Cupar in Fifeshire; Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire; Strangford and Stoneyford in Northern Ireland; Owslebury in rural Hampshire; and Aberaeron in Ceredigion, Wales.

The new move brings the total number of locations – now notified for, or already actively under “stop sell” – to 920 exchanges, covering a total of around 8.5 million premises.  Openreach is giving communication providers (CPs) 12 months’ notice that it will no longer be selling copper-based products/services in these exchanges.

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