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Ofcom Tests New Rules on Openreach’s FTTP Exchange Upgrade Trial

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 (11:57 am) - Score 3,337
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Ofcom has announced that they will test a softer approach to UK telecoms regulation on Openreach’s new FTTP broadband Exchange Upgrade trial in Salisbury (Wiltshire), which is testing how the operator will in the future handle a complete migration from copper to “full fibre” lines.

The trial in Salisbury is interesting because it’s Openreach’s first real-world test of an exchange based upgrade process for their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, which reflects the proposals of their March 2019 consultation (here). In short, Openreach proposed a process for moving from copper to FTTP lines once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive an “ultrafast” 100Mbps+ broadband service (target for this is 24 months after roll-out starts and copper switch-off might then occur c.3 years after / on top of that).

openreach copper switch-off migration path

Under the plan such a process could start with a “no move back” policy for premises connected with FTTP, followed by a “stop-sell” of copper services to new customers and ultimately full withdrawal. We note that “ultrafast” coverage will be measured via all of G.fast, FTTP and possibly even “Vectored VDSL” (at present VDSL / FTTC only goes up to 80Mbps on their platform).

The Two Parts of Copper to FTTP Migration

1) Migration of voice services to IP technology (VoIP) and the withdrawal of traditional analogue telephony. This is known as ‘PSTN Switch-off’ (targeted to occur by 2025), with PSTN standing for the legacy public switched telephone network; and

2) Full fibre rollout and subsequent migration of services to fibre and the withdrawal of copper-based services. This is known as ‘copper retirement’ (likely to be a few decades before the whole of the UK is done).

Salisbury is of course a perfect candidate for testing how this will work, not least due to the diversity (network) of the area but also because Openreach has already pledged to complete their £8m FTTP deployment to all 20,000 premises across the cathedral city by April 2020 (here). Under the trial Openreach proposed (here) to migrate all customers in Salisbury to FTTP, and then withdraw copper services from the area, by the end of 2022.

In keeping with that Ofcom also needs to test how this would impact their approach to regulation and so they’ve proposed to implement a different model for Salisbury. The regulator’s current rules require Openreach to provide wholesale access to standard and superfast broadband on its copper network.

However the above rules will be changed in Salisbury so that Openreach will “no longer have to provide access to these [copper] services where it can offer full-fibre services as an alternative.” At this stage, these changes would only apply when customers move house, change service or switch ISP. “So customers who wish to stay with their current service and provider can still do so,” said Ofcom.

We will work with communications providers to put safeguards in place to protect vulnerable customers during the trial. For example, they will be able to pause migration or restore copper services at short notice if necessary,” added the regulator. The new consultation, which is open for feedback until 6th September 2019, proposes to introduce these changes to the Salisbury area from September 2020.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Lexx

    Force me to have FTTP my way if you can I don’t mind (the 5 people in my local parish church will probably try and stop it if it came to the area because they don’t care about it)

  2. Avatar Marion

    When is fibre broadband comming to Birmingham b12 8sn

  3. Avatar Mike

    The “no move back” policy worked for Stalin so I don’t see why not….

  4. Avatar Bob

    Isn’t it about time they also switch voice as well? Lucky enough to have FTTP but now everyone has two ugly wires leading to their house rather than one.

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