4 weeks ago
In summer 2023, Openreach issued a 'stop sell' notice for copper-dependent phone services across the UK. Although this aligns with Openreach's strategy to transition the country’s network to full fibre, it appears to have prompted some panic in the industry. In this article, we break down Openreach’s strategy and explain the current situation.
First announced back in 2018, Openreach's ambitious initiative aims to establish a network that will connect 25 million premises with high-speed, full fibre internet. This vision aligns with the Government’s plan, which is to introduce 'Gigabit-capable' broadband to a minimum of 85% of all residential and commercial buildings in Britain.
By implementing 'Gigabit-capable' connectivity, Openreach aims to enhance the digital capability of the nation and phase out outdated copper networks, which are less reliable and require more maintenance work. The administration of the current network involves overseeing approximately 5,600 regions across the country. Businesses can use Openreach’s fibre checker tool to ascertain the progress of fibre-optic works in their local area.
In the telecoms industry, a ‘stop sell’ is a strategic action by service providers to discontinue the sale of a particular product or service. In this case, Openreach will no longer offer new copper-based broadband services to customers once fibre coverage in a given area hits 75%. This includes any changes or upgrades to the existing copper services.
By September 2023, no copper-based products should be available to order. The move represents a fundamental shift from the traditional copper infrastructure to the more modern and ever-growing fibre-optic network.
For decades, copper phone lines have been the backbone of the British Isles communication network, transmitting audio and data nationwide. However, as data consumption increases and the demand for high speed Internet grows, the limitations of copper become more apparent.
Although residential and business users still use them to make phone calls and access the Internet, copper lines are prone to a lack of reliability over longer distances, resulting in slow speeds compared to full fibre.
The decision aligns with long-term visions for the transition. As technology advances, modern full fibre infrastructure will provide the foundation to accommodate more new innovations and services requiring higher speeds and reliability. So Openreach has decided the time is now to call curtains on new copper-based services.
Sustainability could well have played a significant role in this decision, too. Fibre-optic connections are much more energy efficient than the old copper lines. With the Government coming under increased pressure to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, the end of new copper services would certainly be in their best interests.
Grant Counsell, Sales Director for Manchester-based service provider Incom, urged others in the telecoms sector not to panic. “However, I do not advocate waiting until the last minute to make the change to digital services, especially when many customers can reduce their costs and gain benefits.
“There are millions of lines and services connected to the network in the UK that are going to be affected and we expect there to be a large proportion of businesses who will wait as long as possible before making the switch to being fully digital. We also foresee there being issues within the network where some providers may not be able to support last-minute requests.
“I believe that those businesses able to act sooner will benefit from a better, more efficient, changeover experience and will be at an advantage over those organisations who are slower to react. Customers who are not in an area where full fibre is available can still plan and make changes so that the transition is simplified when the stop sell notice is issued for your area.”
Some other services will be affected by Openreach’s stop sell orders on copper. It could cause complications for fax users, which will undergo a transition to a ‘fax-to-email’ service. Or you could opt for an SIP-based solution compatible with your Voice Over IP (VoIP) system.
If you currently use an alarm system from BT Redcare, this service will also be affected. It's advisable to switch to a digital service using a mobile SIM card instead. For direct analogue lines used for private numbers, there is the option of migrating to a cloud-based service. With a mobile SIM, your calls and voicemails would redirect to a mobile app.
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