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Openreach Updates on Pilot for National UK Exchange Closures

Friday, Jun 23rd, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 12,528
Fibre Optic Openreach Network Cables UK

Network access provider Openreach (BT) has published a new industry consultation that sets out, in more detail, how they’re proposing to close the first 103 of their “priority exchanges” by 2030 (pilot phase). But eventually the plan is to shut 4,500 exchanges across the UK, which will impact various broadband, PIA and Ethernet services.

Openreach currently has around 5,500 UK exchanges, but only c. 1,000 of these exchanges – the Openreach Handover Points (OHPs) – are used to provide nationwide coverage of modern “fibre broadband” based services (FTTC, FTTP and G.fast). Naturally, the rollout of full fibre, combined with the retirement of copper lines and analogue services, will eventually make it economically unviable to support both the old and new exchanges together.

NOTE: Openreach previously predicted that, come 2025, the number of copper broadband customers being served by the 4,600 exchanges will fall to just 1 million.

Due to all this, Openreach has been working on a long-term plan to close the vast majority of their older exchanges – known as the ‘Exchange Exit Programme‘. The plan is to conduct an initial closure of 103 priority exchanges by 2030, with the rest following gradually in the years thereafter. But before that, the operator has been piloting their approach via an initial batch of just 5 exchanges (here).

The pilots began around May last year, with final product switch-off expected to follow later in 2024 for Deddington, Carrickfergus, Ballyclare, Glengormley, and Kenton Road. The operator has now launched a new consultation that sets out their proposed approach to closing the first 103 exchanges by 2030 (it’s open for feedback until 21st Sept 2023).

Openreach Estimate of FTTP Footprint at Pilot Exchanges (March 22)
➤ Deddington (Oxfordshire) – 99%
➤ Kenton Road (London) – 93%
➤ Carrickfergus (NI) – 98%
➤ Ballyclare (NI) – 90%
➤ Glengormley (NI) – 99%

NOTE: Coverage will improve before complete closure of these exchanges in 2024-25. But Openreach warns that they may be unable to provide FTTP to everybody (i.e. issues of prohibitively high costs and permissions/consents to cross private land etc.) and “in these scenarios, customers may need to seek an alternative provider or technology solution.” That’ll go down well.

According to the document, which we’ve been able to view, Openreach envisages a gradual four-phased approach toward closure (no surprise given the huge complexities involved). The process of exiting the most complex exchanges would begin up to 7 years before their exit date, while the simplest exchanges could be done within 4 years.

In terms of the 4-year approach, the first 3 years would focus on encouraging voluntary migration and using “stop sells” on old products (i.e. you can’t buy them anymore), while the final year would involve “supported migrations” or the risk of your service being ceased if the retail provider fails to achieve this. ISPs would also be expected to remove their kit from exchanges in the final year.

The consultation also attempts to propose how they’ll handle the thorny issue of Ethernet, Dark Fibre (DFX) and PIA (access to existing cable ducts and poles), which are supplied by many of the “old” exchanges too. Alternative networks have previously warned that the costs involved with adapting to this could be significant (here), and have called on Openreach to “shoulder a portion of the costs to its customers of accommodating” the closures. Otherwise, AltNets fear that some of the changes could result in their investments becoming unviable.

The document suggests that Openreach may be able to help in some areas (details remain unclear), but in others there may be no escaping the extra costs that AltNets will have to handle. In any case, it’s still a bit too early to draw any firm conclusions, although Openreach expect to respond to the consultation feedback’s in December 2023 (there’s bound to be a fair bit of feedback on this one).

Richard Allwood, Chief Strategy Officer at Openreach, said:

“As we continue with our multi-billion pound investment to upgrade the UK’s broadband infrastructure, we’re excited by the opportunities to streamline legacy services and assets”

The move to a new digital network will ultimately benefit everybody – from Communication Provider customers who’ll be able to serve their customers from fewer exchanges – helping to save costs to millions of consumers who will benefit from fibre technology and therefore more reliable and faster broadband.

Exiting exchanges that support copper and point-to-point services needs careful consideration and planning. As we continue with our exchange exit programme we’re here to collaborate and have opened this consultation to help CPs as they migrate their customers.”

The latest tentative list of the first 103 priority exchanges can be found below, although this is subject to change. Openreach chose these based on a variety of different factors, such as FTTP coverage, location (avoiding resources contention), volume of Ethernet and optical customers served, and complexity of the exchange itself. In addition, we suspect that issues of expiring leases and other cost impacts may have also had a role.

Openreach have previously said that they would prioritise exchanges where the potential benefits of exit are highest (e.g. those with very high running costs). But just to be clear, the operator will NOT be withdrawing exchanges in areas where doing so would leave lots of existing customers disconnected (i.e. no fibre or FTTC alternatives).

The First 103 Exchanges (exit dates from Dec 2027 to Dec 2030)

LIST FORMAT: Exchange SAU ID | Exchange Name | Parent Mapping Openreach Handover Point SAU ID

CLSHO Shoreditch CLFAR
LNSTF Stratford LNMED
WEWBAY Bayswater WEWLOR
WRPIM Pimlico WRSTHBK
CLSOU Southwark WRSTHBK
WEWMAY Mayfair WRSTHBK
LSWOO Woolwich LSTHMD
WEWBLO Howland Street WEWMAR
WEWNPN North Paddington WEWMAR
CLWAP Wapping CLFAR
WEWPAD Paddington WEWMAR
LVCEN Liverpool Central LVBOO
CLHOL Holborn WRSTHBK
LWWEM Wembley LWNWEM
CLNEW New Cross CLBER
LSWAN Wandsworth LSBAL
CMMLD Midland CMCEN
WEWPRI Primrose Hill WEWLOR
WRSKEN South Kensington WRSTHBK
LSKIN* KINGSTON SSC (Taverner House) * Strictly speaking, the SAU ID refers to the neighbouring telephone exchange, not Taverner House. We are planning to retain Kingston telephone exchange, but exit Taverner House.
LWHOU Hounslow LWKNE
LNCED Crouch End CLUPP
LNEDM Edmonton LNPON
LWHARR Harrow LWHAT
LWUXB Uxbridge LWWDRA
LNLVY Lea Valley LNWCR
WSMOT Motherwell WSHAM
LWCHI Chiswick LWACT
NESU Sunderland NESUN
NDMED ChathamNDGIL
LNFIN Finchley LNNFN
CLMON Monument CLFAR
LSRIC Richmond Kew; Surrey LSMOR
LSSTR StreathamLSBAL
EAGRA Grays Thurrock LNPFT
WRKGDN Kensington Gardens WRSTHBK
SDWTHDN Brighton Withdean SDHV
LSWEY Weybridge LSWLTN
LSPUR Purley LSCRO
THAD Aldershot THFB
EAHTF Hertford EAWAR
WMWR Worcester WMSTP
LWPIN Pinner LWRUI
SMLEA Leagrave SMLT
ESCRA Edinburgh Craiglockhart ESDON
LWSTAI Staines LWEGH
CLWOO Baynard (Wood St.) CLFAR
CMDD Dudley; West Midlands CMBYL
LWSKY Skyport LWHAY
LSCTHM CaterhamLSDOW
LSSUN Sunbury LSMOL
LSNCHM North CheamLSSUT
LVGAT Gateacre LVHUY
LSTHDT Thames Ditton LSMOL
EACHF Chafford LNPFT
CMWDGT Woodgate CMHALE
LSESH Esher LSWLTN
SWPN Pontypridd SWLLO
MRBRA Bramhall MRHUL
SDWSWND Worthing Swandean SDWWST
CMKNO Knowle CMSOL
LSFARB Farnborough; Kent LSORP
SSSHM Shepton Mallet SSMID
LVCHI Childwall LVSEF
WNM Mold WNDEE
WSPRO Glasgow Provanmill WSSHE
WMHX Headless Cross WMRJ
SDBRCKL Bracklesham Bay SDCHCHS
THIP Iver THSL
CMBEAC Beacon CMGREB
LSBKM BookhamTHDK
EMALLES Allestree Park EMDRRBB
THBW Blackwater THFB
EABRI Brightlingsea EACOL
MYRPP Ripponden MYELL
EAWRI Writtle EACHE
WWCHEL Chelston WWPAIG
SMHGN Holmer Green SMHY
WWSOME Somerton SSSTT
SSLON Long Ashton SSBED
LNNAZ Nazeing LNHOD
LWCHO Chorleywood LWRIC
LSBET Betchworth THDK
MYADD AddinghamMYSKP
LVAUG Aughton Green LVMAG
NDGUE Guestling NDHAS
LWWRA Wraysbury LWEGH
NDNEI Newick NDUCK
LSMOG Mogador LSREI
EARDH Ramsden Heath EABCY
ESLUN Lundin Links ESLEV
SSSOF Stratton On The Fosse SSMID
MRCHI Chinley MRBUX
NDSHO Shorne NDGRA
THHN Headley Down THHM
EMSOSHM SomershamEMSTIVE
SLDCN Doncaster North SLDC
WWMSMT Mawnan Smith WWFALM
NDOTF Otford NDSEV
EMCOGEN Cogenhoe EMWESTO
SMLA Langford SMSFD
WWWBAY Widemouth WWBUDE
SLHX Haxey SLGB

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
41 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Plazo says:

    A bit of a noobie question sorry guys, How does openreach connect the other end of the exchange like i understand they use gpon for the end user what about the back end sorry if this is a dumb question

    1. Avatar photo qwerty says:

      From a smaller exchange to a larger exchange with a handover/point of interconnect?

      Or are you asking how a backhaul network integrates with the Openreach access network – before it is handed to an ISP core network?

      ———–

      If it’s the first one then they’d probably just use a point-to-point fibre link between the two exchanges.

      If it’s the second question then a communications provider will install equipment in the exchange with a handover point that equipment will inturn join a fibre network separate to the Openreach network* e.g. BT operates their own nationwide network but it is technically separate from the Openreach network.

      * I’m sure you can buy interexchange backhaul from Openreach as the exchanges tend to be connected to one another. But at some stage it will connect to an externally operated fibre network such as BT’s national network or a network ran by somebody else, such as Vodafone or TalkTalk.

    2. Avatar photo Optimist says:

      There are some informative articles on GPON deployment, as well as other technologies, here https://draytek.co.uk/information/blog

  2. Avatar photo Charles Smith says:

    Are we heading for the risk of larger regional outages as a consequence of fewer exchanges? Murphy with his JCB digger never goes away in the world of telecoms. Or are BT Openreach doubling down on resilience in their infrastructure?

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      as I understand it, the VDSL/FTTP services are already concentrated on these larger exchanges (listed as the “parent handover point” in the story) so we’ll have had decades of experience by the time it happens. Other communications providers are even more centralised.

      There’s an argument that it’ll be easier for BT to maintain a much smaller number of exchanges to a higher standard (though their track record is already very good). Probably some hefty cost savings too, as the exchanges are leased, and the heavy London bias would suggest that they’re going for that first.

    2. Avatar photo Tom says:

      Cost savings that would never be passed on but reaped for more profiteering as usual no doubt.

    3. Avatar photo MikeP says:

      I doubt it will make much difference. Look how extensive the outage was when a pile augur went through a cable tunnel during the Startford Olympic site works. Places half way across the country went down.

    4. Avatar photo RobC says:

      @Tom OR have already stated in their consultation that, specifically with EAD and DFA fibre products, the move to a more central exchange will generally result in the removal of the “Main Link” inter-exchange costs meaning that a lot of CPs will see their leased line costs fall dramatically.

  3. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    The majority of these will be prime redevelopment sites – I’m sure BT shareholders will be delighted at all the money coming their way (as with the scrap value of the copper, per previous thread).

    Unless there’s any land clawback clauses, then another aspect of privatisation that was botched.

    1. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      Most were sold years ago and now leased.

    2. Avatar photo Icaras says:

      BT sold the exchanges years ago, the buildings are leased.

    3. Avatar photo Alex says:

      Nice totally uninformed assumption.

    4. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Many of these buildings have been left to rot. Unless they are going to be levelled and the land reused, BT may have to plough a large sum of money into them before returning them to the lease owner

    5. Avatar photo John says:

      As a few replies to you already point out, Openreach won’t have any windfall from selling exchanges on prime development sites.
      They sold ALL their exchanges many years ago and now lease them all back.

      They will make savings from not having to lease the exchanges back but many of them have a minimum term lease. Much of the savings will be in running costs.

      While there’s still plenty of E-Side and D-Side copper to be recovered the most valuable copper was the super thick stuff linking exchanges which was replaced with fibre years ago.
      Some of that has already been recovered.

      Some of the copper might be next to impossible to recover.
      Many of the ducts containing the copper are full to bursting.
      Have you ever watched OR trying to pull fibre in to a full duct? Good luck pulling the copper out without damaging the fibre that’s alongside it.

      It’s not as big a windfall as many seen to think it is.

    6. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      @ Icarus, Alex, The Facts, John: So confident, so critical…but do you check your facts?

      With a few exceptions, BT never sold most of the exchanges, it moved the freehold into a fully owned SPV, and then conducted a complex 130 year lease and leaseback deal worth over £2bn twenty years ago. So unless you can evidence otherwise, the freehold largely remains with BT. If the headlease holder wants to sell a site for development (as they have with some) then they’ll either only be selling their leasehold, or they’ll need to buy out BT’s freehold.

    7. Avatar photo JUF4 says:

      Not sure about your fact checking. BT sold some 6700 properties in 2001 to Telereal with a 30 year lease back.
      Telereal Trillium is no SPV

    8. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      @JUF4: No, sir, you need to check your facts. You are wrong, as are most of the people in this thread. There’s lots of experts who contribute to this site, many who know far more than I will ever understand about the technology of communications, how to design, build and operate communications networks, many with years of expertise and experience inside BT and other telcos. But being an expert in one area doesn’t make an expert in all areas, and when it comes to “corporate stuff” that’s where I’m one of the experts.

      The deal with Telereal was very specifically and clearly structured as a lease and leaseback, not a sale and leaseback. And I’m fully aware Telereal Trilium isn’t an SPV, I was referring to the BT 100% owned SPV that BT moved the freeholds into, and still own check it out on Companies House, and then this SPV sold a head lease to a Telereal JV (with some other property investment outfit). There’s a well written and detailed article that explains the deal structure….you know that google web site? That’s your friend here, so long as you can distinguish between poor quality journalism that lazily and incorrectly reported the deal as sale and lease back because the journo didn’t understand, and the better quality reports that really do understand. Conventionally, companies far more often do S&L than do L&L, people have seen the words “and leaseback” and assumed the rest; It’s true BT have done sale and leaseback on some properties, but the bulk of the leaseback exchanges are all in the L&L package. A very, very smart move by BT, in my view.

      I could provide a link to a suitably authoritative explanation, but why should I? It’s a matter of public record, yet many posters here can’t be bothered to check their facts before trying to refute what I’m saying, yet a suitably framed search turns up the evidence in a fraction of a second. Since I seem to be banging my head against a brick wall here, I’ll offer a generous clue: Association of Corporate Treasurers.

      Should I apologise if that all comes across as high handed or rude? Nah. If people will insist I’m wrong, when the facts have been public domain for twenty odd years and show I’m right, then I’m going to take some spiky pleasure in putting matters straight. I’ll happily take my medicine if the boot is on the other foot.

    9. Avatar photo Terry says:

      @Andrew G

      I’m not one of the know it all’s you speak about but have to say you are also coming across like them 🙁

    10. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      Land Registry document for an exchange here includes:

      2002-10-07
      PROPRIETOR: BRITISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLC (Co. Regn. No. 1800000) of 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ.

      Also mentions – Lease dated 22 November 2001 to Autumnwindow NO.3 Limited

      Lease dated 22 November 2001 to Autumnwindow NO.3 Limited for 131 years (plus 3 days) from 6 April 2001. NOTE 1: The lease contains an option to purchase the reversion upon the terms therein mentioned

      charge dated 22 November 2001 in favour of Telereal Securitised Property Trustee 1 Limited referred to in the Charges Register. And

      Proprietor: CITICORP TRUSTEE COMPANY LIMITED (Co. Regn. No. 00235914) of 336 Strand, London WC2R 1HB. (ref. Project Warren).

  4. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

    For the poor customers that may end up with no service as there are “(i.e. issues of prohibitively high costs and permissions/consents to cross private land etc.)”
    Maybe OfCom should be given powers to force land owners to allow copper lines that cross their land to be replaced with fibre, without new wayleave. Surely if there was a fault in a cable already to a property, the current wayleave allows repair, therefore “this copper ain’t working, it will have to be replaced with glass/plastic” is just an extension of that.
    It may mean the fibre has to take a less direct route, but at least they would remain connected.
    If the gas infrastructure of natal pipes is deemed out of date and needs replacing with plastic, they’ll dig up anything, Comms is as vital a service as gas these days??

    1. Avatar photo RobC says:

      Not sure where you’re coming from on this – this consultation has nothing to do with the laying of new fibre cables. The exchange exit program will follow the track of areas where FTTP coverage has reached a certain threshold and gives plenty of time for them to deal with the outlying areas involved.

      In terms of wayleaves for new cables, where there are ducts in place then OR can already run fibre in alongside the copper. Where they have previously direct buried cables then they will have to potentially acquire new wayleaves but there is a process for this that is backed up with the ability to use the courts should the landowner be particularly resistant.

  5. Avatar photo m4tty_j says:

    Redevelopment of these exchanges would be great.
    The exchange building in Sunderland is a monstrosity of a building.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Hopefully it can be levelled quickly, before some idiot decides that it’s of such architectural quality that it should be listed, and then becomes a permanent and hideous eyesore that somebody else has to maintain purely to please a tiny handful of architecture buffs who really should not be listened to.

      Like the Barbican in London, or Birmingham New Street signal box.

  6. Avatar photo Stuck with OR says:

    LSBKM Bookham is on the list,but OR fibre only expected by Dec 2026 just in time (No Altnets interested). Exchange will definitely be redeveloped, whoever owns it, as have two adjacent buildings. Like other exchanges a big issue will be the mobile kit on the roof.

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      bookham is not a headend/handover site so no openreach fibre broadband will go through there anyway. I doubt any of these will be handover sites as BT will want to keep those long term.

    2. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      When a local exchange closes, that doesn’t mean removal of copper.

      The copper still runs from FTTC cabinets to customers, and FTTC service can still be supplied – since the fibre backhaul from the cabinet already runs to the nearest Fibre Aggregation Node and from there to a main head-end exchange. It doesn’t depend on the local exchange at all, except for the analogue dialtone (which is being turned off in Dec 2025).

  7. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Glad to hear Cuckoo Oak exchange is safer for now. Need this exchange for FTTC/G.fast and FTTP.

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Cuckoo oak is not a handover site so it is not need for FTTC,gfast or FTTP.
      Doesn’t look particularly attractive either

  8. Avatar photo charles says:

    genuine question. What will happen to my Leased Line? My exchange is on that list but my contract runs for another 4 years. I think I am directly connected to the Exchange? And it does mention Ethernet Services. I don’t have a backup as I have never had a problem but will I need like a 4G backup?

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Openreach will have to work with CPs to reroute lease line services to alternative sites.
      This is where it starts to get costly.

    2. Avatar photo charles says:

      Thanks but will I have to pay more? or will they charge me extra ECC’s etc? Seems a bit off if so but I guess if that’s the way that’s the way

    3. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      I doubt it but you will have to check with your provider.

    4. Avatar photo RobC says:

      Your CP will work with OR to re-route the leased line and it will either be done via migration cutover (with a downtime of around four hours) or as a “provide and cease” where they install a new leased line and then cease the existing one once the new circuit is live. Either way, as long as your CP engages in the migration process then there will be no charges for you for this as OR are covering all these costs.

    5. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      charles: “I don’t have a backup as I have never had a problem”

      How to put this? The whole point of a backup anything, is that you have it BEFORE disaster strikes.

      I assume that in fact you see value in a leased line, but your use isn’t sufficiently demanding that you want to fork out against the risk of any unforeseen disruption?

  9. Avatar photo MikeP says:

    Some interesting ones there. Southwark, tiny compared with Colombo House not far away, and VDSL seemed impossible at many locations near there – lots of EO lines.
    I was also a victim of Baynard/Wood Street – an exchange lift and shift before the Moorgate closure disaster (some people lost ADSL for many months in that one). Ex-Wood Street copper had crazy apparent line lengths (3Km plus).
    Then Kingston, a GSC back in the day….

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      An SSC I think – wasn’t it London South West Sector?

  10. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    As many exchange basement cable chambers were built to be bomb proof, they will take a lot of demolishing.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      I used to work in what was previously the Hawker aircraft design office at Langley, that was built in 1938 to be bomb resistant with three feet thick walls of reinforced concrete, but that was no match to the demolition equipment when the Ford factory closed, and the site was redeveloped into a parcels depot.

      Never underestimate the ability of civil engineering equipment to relentlessly munch through the toughest of materials.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Cable chambers mostly just get filled in.

  11. Avatar photo MilesT says:

    Is there a complete list of exchanges and handover points (i.e. not just the ones prioritised for closure sooner).

  12. Avatar photo Free at last says:

    Most of the exchanges in the estate are falling apart. Maintenance is reactive and issues that are identified by engineers take months to years to rectify.

    Glad I don’t work for Openreach anymore. Pretend to care about the workforce but provide hazardous welfare facilities.

Comments are closed

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