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Ofcom Considers Bringing UK Copper Line Retirement Forward

Thursday, October 15th, 2020 (11:39 am) - Score 5,328
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The seemingly rapid progress of Openreach’s (BT) move to replace their old copper phone services with a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP network has today prompted Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, to reconsider their time-line for the withdrawal of copper services.

Back in January 2020, Ofcom proposed shifting the focus of their regulation from copper, to support the migration to fibre services (here). This included allowing Openreach to stop selling new copper services, and then later removing the copper charge control, under certain conditions. However, they proposed maintaining other requirements on the operator to provide access to its copper services for the period from April 2021 to March 2026.

NOTE: Openreach has stated that it plans to deploy FTTP to 4.5 million premises by March 2021 and then 20 million premises by the mid to late 2020s.

Since publishing that consultation, Openreach has notified the regulator of 168 exchange areas (plus the Salisbury trial) – covering about 1.8 million premises – at which it expects to provide “ultrafast” broadband services to 75% of premises (here). The process for moving from copper to fibre lines begins once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive such a service.

Once begun, Openreach will then be able to stop selling new copper services in those exchanges during 2021. Under Ofcom’s current proposals, in those notified exchanges, where it has completed ultrafast coverage, the operator would also be able to increase prices for copper services, where fibre is available, during 2023 (i.e. encouraging migration to fibre, albeit while possibly irritating some ISPs that will have to pass higher prices on to customers).

The rapid pace of progress has now prompted Ofcom to consider, where there are a limited number of customers remaining on copper services, and there are fibre services available to them, whether it “may be reasonable to withdraw remaining regulations on copper services in some cases before April 2026.”

Ofcom’s Proposed Change

In this consultation, we propose to revise our WFTMR proposals to allow for the withdrawal of copper regulation where fibre services are available, where certain conditions in completed exchanges are met. Withdrawal of copper regulation would apply 2 years after Openreach gives notification that it has completed ultrafast coverage of an exchange area.

Notification could be published when or after take-up of copper services is less than 10% of relevant premises in a completed exchange, and only where measures are put in place to support vulnerable consumers. Our proposals would not apply to Critical National Infrastructures.

The new consultation will be open for feedback until 26th November 2020 and Ofcom’s final decisions will then be posted as part of the statement in Q4 2020/21 (i.e. before April 2021).

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12 Responses
  1. Avatar joe says:

    Pretty feeble – but its ofcom so – but its a glacial step in the right direction.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      A step in the right direction, yes. But this country is more than a decade behind of where it should be, thanks to wrong policies and incompetent telecoms.

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      and regulators.

    3. Avatar jeff says:

      About time the copper went. When VDSL stops splatterimg all over the RF spectrum including broadcast and amateur bands with OFCOM doing nothing to stop it despite a requirement to notch out those frequencies, I’ll be a happier Radio guy. A quick look at my Spectrum Analyser and a listen shows how bad it’s got. If we can ban powerline networking and cheap unfiltered switch mode PSUs too plus the oscillator controlled touch lamps that switch at the slightest sniff of RF then the radio spectrum will be a much happier place to be.

    4. Avatar A_Builder says:

      At least there is a direction of travel on this!

      Glacial but it is detectable.

      I don’t really think anyone wants to slow the pace of FTTC -> FTTP where it exists. As everyone, even OFCOM realise that slowing the transition down slows OR’s rollout down.

      Personally I would be in favour of a stop sell of copper as soon as FTTP is passed on premises.

  2. Avatar freddie says:

    Assume nothing changes for those of us still replying on a copper line for ADSL let alone FTTC/FTTP?

    1. Avatar biden says:

      All ADSL lines will upgraded to FTTP sooner or later anyway

    2. Avatar freddie says:

      Cheers Max

    3. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      “All ADSL lines will upgraded to FTTP sooner or later” – I’m not convinced that will happen for all ADSL lines. If USO costs come in at £100k now I can’t see FTTP ever being rolled out in the future. 4G or fixed wireless is more likely the ultimate solution for some.

  3. Avatar Packet Switched says:

    I was looking forward to retaining my copper line with ADSL at about 12 MByt up and ! down and a telephone handset and in the fullness or time when such things ceased to be new, special and expensive getting fibre to the premises full state of the art 1,000 MBys both up and down. I see no point about anything in between and would be loathe to lose the independent power supply of a
    POTS line.

    Apart from remonstrating with OFCOM and calling’s into aid traditional lines like mine with an alarm on them which for fire and theft
    may affect insurance – indeed be a condition of obtaining it at all – what can I best do to retain one?

    1. Avatar joe says:

      You can’t. And your point is false anyway. Its not as though a company that uses copper for F alarms is not going to have other solutions for the transition.

    2. Avatar Dave Jones says:

      If your alarm system is provided by the same national one as me then they already have a solution to that, all be it a 3G/4G solution which I am having installed at the end of the month.

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