Contrary to what you would first think, the process of the switch-off of the copper network has not started. However, Openreach, the national broadband network infrastructure builder, has begun to explore how, and when the copper broadband delivery network can be shut down.
The annual Fibre to the Home Conference in Amsterdam look place in March 2019. Yet Mike McTighe commented that the eventual switch-off for the copper network was not a challenge that Openreach needed to prepare for.
Openreach are working with the government to decide what the switch off will look like. Additionally, issues are being discussed around how the copper network assets – currently in the ground – will be recovered.
Despite the move and sales towards the full-fibre technology, the organisation has not stopped installing copper broadband infrastructure. It must be asked why; superfast broadband is being promoted.
- Superfast broadband = a service delivering download speeds of over 24 Mbps.
Yet, Openreach is investing hundreds of millions in superfast copper-based broadband. If this all seems abstract (it did to me) this includes VDSL services and Gfast.
- VDSL Services: Voice signals use only a fraction of the available capacity on the wires. DSL exploits this remaining capacity to carry information on the wire without disturbing the line’s ability to carry conversations.
- Gfast: delivers ultrafast broadband speeds of more than 100Mbps.
In 2018, around 50% of new-build homes had copper lines put into them. However, the aim for new-build properties was to be able to access full-fibre broadband.
McTighe commented that it was unwise to commit to a certain switch-off date; gradual shut off was preferable. Therefore, instead of a dramatic switch-off (like I was imaging, through the flick of a switch) the process will be gradual.
Whilst I was researching this, the blog I wrote concerning Phillip Hammond’s goal of full-fibre connectivity by 2033 was been playing in my mind. Hammond was planning to implement incentives for industries to move away from copper services, so I am currently not understanding how the two marry together.
McTighe has commented that Openreach could build a national full-fibre broadband network by 2033, but this would be close. Additionally, switching-off all the copper broadband services by 2033 was reportedly a different matter.
With the upcoming problems surrounding Brexit, funding and the interest in leased lines, I am curious to see how this service will manoeuvre its way into British business and homes to become the primary service.