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1 month ago

Openreach Says Cut the Copper as Part of 'Stop Sell' Initiative

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.

May 2024 Update

Landline Switch-Off Delayed Until 2027

In May 2024, BT announced an extension to the deadline for migrating all customers from the traditional copper-based Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to digital landlines. Originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025, the switchover will now extend to 2027.

BT has already begun transitioning customers with broadband connections to its ‘Digital Voice’ landline service, but the postponement comes in the wake of a UK Government charter aimed at safeguarding vulnerable customers. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has urged British telecom providers to ensure that vulnerable customers, particularly the elderly, are not forced to switch until ‘robust protections’ are in place.

According to BT, this revised strategy will enable a single comprehensive switch from copper to fibre for most businesses and households. They expect to fully decommission analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027.

What is Openreach’s Strategy?

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'Gigabit-capable' connectivity, Openreach aims to enhance the digital capability of the nation and phase out outdated copper networks, which are less reliable and require more maintenance work.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.

What is a 'Stop Sell' Notice?

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.

What's the Current Role of Copper Lines?

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.

Copper wires in a pileAlthough 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.

Why are Openreach Issuing Stop Sells Now?

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.

Calls for Calm in the Telecoms Industry

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.”

Are Other Services Affected?

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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Sam White