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Openreach Raises UK Copper Wholesale Line Rental Prices

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021 (11:11 am) - Score 6,096
copper vs fibre optic openreach engineer

Openreach (BT) has announced a new round of price increases for UK broadband ISPs and phone providers that take their Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) product, which forms part of their transition to gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines and the plan to stop selling WLR from September 2023 (full withdrawal by Dec 2025).

Just to recap. Ofcom’s Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review 2021-26 (summary) saw the regulator move away from cost-based charge controls on copper line services, while Openreach also gained the ability to spread the cost of investment in FTTP across a wider group of consumers (e.g. allowing them to recover some investment costs from both copper and fibre products).

NOTE: Openreach are investing £15bn to cover 25 million premises (c.80% of the UK) with FTTP broadband by December 2026.

Suffice to say that some price rises on older copper line products were inevitable, and indeed we’ve already seen some of those hitting earlier this year (here). Today’s announcement continues that trend with a new batch of price changes that will all take effect from 1st April 2022. We should point out that there are a few price decreases too, but mostly they seem to be going in the other direction.

For example, the one-off cost of supplying a basic new line (WLR) is soon to be £47.40 +vat (up from £42.15), while Basic Line Rental will reach £104.40 per year (up from £96.72) and the annual rental cost for a 40Mbps (2Mbps upload) GEA hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) broadband line jumps to £87 (up from £83.52). See the full table of Pricing Notifications that have been updated today.

As a reminder, these are the wholesale charges that ISPs must pay to Openreach, which won’t necessarily reflect the retail prices that consumers pay for similar products because service providers still have to add other things on top (e.g. 20% VAT, a profit margin, services, capacity and network features etc.).

Katie Milligan, MD Customer Commercial and Propositions, said:

“We want to reinforce the UK’s position as a global leader for digital infrastructure, so we’ve been preparing to withdraw our analogue copper products and to simplify and focus on providing modern digital connections including our new full fibre platform. Our pricing announced for April 2022 supports this by increasing prices on the products being withdrawn, while holding the prices of future proofed fibre products flat in real terms.

We know that upgrading people onto future-proofed full fibre broadband will boost productivity, the environment and prosperity – and we want the UK to start reaping those benefits now. That’s why we’re encouraging providers, homes and businesses to make the switch to digital lines where they’re available and sooner rather than later.”

Openreach appear to be keeping these increases fairly small and gradual, so as not to introduce too much of an aggressive hit that might cause significant upset among consumers, although ISPs will no doubt feel the impact across their customer bases.

The operator is ultimately only doing what Ofcom has allowed them to, and the regulator itself remains adamant that Openreach deserves the chance to make a “fair return” on their huge FTTP investment. On the flip side, their FTTP products did recently get cheaper via new discounts, which is intended to help encourage migration away from copper lines (here). However, some underlying full fibre prices have also increased today, albeit remaining flat in real terms (here).

But Openreach has to be careful about how they handle this because price increases could also encourage consumers in some areas to move away to rival FTTP platforms, where available, which could be counter-productive to their goals.

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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.
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20 Responses
  1. GaryH says:

    Interesting to quote ofcom and a fair return on fttp investment, while increasing charges for existing copper and holding fttp pricing flat.

    I’m not in the least surprised the price has gone up, pretty much everything has, but as you say paying more for the worst isn’t going to be a popular take from this. I’m not sure any amount of spin or fluff statements will deflect the ire, of course where there’s no choice why would they care.

    1. Aled says:

      Yeah, to be fair Openreach have dug deep and are rolling out nationally at a crazy pace. But I do chuckle at the idea that the “copper infrastructure” has suddenly become more expensive. It has largely been in the ground for 20-50 years! While much of the existing ductwork probably makes the FTTP cheaper to build.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      As more copper customers move to FTTP then it becomes economically unviable to sustain both networks at the same time. Withdrawal of copper is thus part of how BT are able to afford FTTP. Other networks don’t have to worry about a legacy of copper.

    3. AnotherTim says:

      But increasing copper prices in areas where FTTC or FTTP are not available doesn’t seem fair. BT will only offer me Sub-USO ADSL2+ for £32.99pm, which is more than they charge for FTTC or FTTP a few miles away.

    4. Neil says:

      @Aled i spoke to an Openreach engineer last year and they were saying copper network due to age (plus corrosion) is becoming expensive and time consuming to maintain. A lot of areas don’t have ducts, they have cables buried. Those that do have ducts, not all have capacity for additional fibre cables. Like where i live, they had to dig up and put new duct down for fibre which comes from the exchange to the pole (not cabinet).

  2. Fastman says:

    aled clear case of economics and thing you spend in network has a payback period over a period of time (that payback period now of anything you do with copper has now miniscule payback so it goes up and you have keep funding 2 network platforms (copper an FTT) with 2 different payback periods as well

  3. Just a thought says:

    It would seem fairer if they only increased prices to postcodes where they ARE running two networks side by side. If there is no FTTP then at a location it’s not exactly consumer choice.

    1. Ian says:

      Spot on

    2. Mark Bonito says:

      2nd this, so put up prices for those that cannot move to anything else, so not quite 2 side by side networks.

    3. Peter says:

      Too true!

      Just a thought

    4. Paul M says:

      indeed, no BT OR fibre on my side of the street, unless I pay £9500 for FTTPoD, and no prospect of it arriving soon 🙁

      seems very unfair for me to be subsidising other people’s migration to fibre!

  4. ad47uk says:

    Don’t expect anything else from Bloated Toad.

    1. Rocky Balboa says:

      Adrian, Adrian, I love you Adrian

  5. Fillius Nullis says:

    What about my aluminium line? Laid in 1980’s, now deteriorating.

  6. Phillip says:

    So still waiting to see when BT decides that an exchange serving over 3,000 households, a small industrial estate, a large secondary shop and many small shops, takeaway restaurants and lots of pubs is considered viable for just the basic Fibre to the cabinet never mind full fibre. By the time we can get super fast Upto 80mbps, everyone else will be on TerraBits/Second. I hate the fact that Sky, EE, talk talk etc have no choice but to use their crappy network.

    1. GaryH says:

      Other ISPs are entitled to build or fund their own network. they could put fibre in to your area if they wanted to, I wouldn’t be feeling sorry for them.

    2. Fastman says:

      So what exchange .if it was circa 3000 premises it would never have been commercially viable.depends what exchange it is it might have already been claimed as being already covered as superfast

    3. GNewton says:

      @Fastman: On what assumptions do you base your statement that exchanges with 3000 premises are not commercially viable? Many small towns are still made up of densely built-up estates where fibre networks can be easily installed.

  7. Martin says:

    1) Easy to moan about “crappy” network, for much of the public it is not a big deal. As long as they can make calls and have some sort of broadband, they are O.K. They don’t change their vote at general elections because of broadband. We ispreview.co.uk readers may have different priorities from the public overall.

    2) I am in a small town with about 5000 premises and FTTP has been made available.

    3) There are limited numbers of folk with the skill sets to roll out FTTP. Brexit has limited the size of the labour market further. This was often popular in rural areas.

    4) If you have not got FTTC, then you will have to wait for FTTP. My understanding is that FTTC roll has ended and that FTTP is seen as the way ahead.

  8. Paul M says:

    BT laid the copper wiring in my village over 50 years ago, have collected £10,000’s in revenue per house, have largely ignored the infrastructure and let it rot with no investment at all, and now we’re being told to we have to pay more for a decaying degrading service when there’s no upgrade path to fibre?

    I think that’s taking the ****.

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