Openreach Name 51 UK Areas for Copper Phone to Fibre Switch inc. parts of CWAC
Openreach (BT) has told ISPs of another 51 UK exchange locations where they intend to move away from their old copper-based analogue phone (PSTN / WLR etc.) services and on to a new all-IP network, which will apply in areas that receive over 75% coverage via their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network.
Before we get started it’s important to clarify that there are two different, albeit closely related, stages to moving away from the old copper line telecoms network and its eventual withdrawal. The first starts with a gradual migration of traditional voice (PSTN) services to all-IP technologies (e.g. VoIP), which is due to complete by December 2025 and is occurring on copper line (e.g. SOGEA) products (i.e. many copper and full fibre ISPs will need to introduce IP based voice solutions for customers).
Meanwhile the second stage reflects the on-going deployment of faster FTTP broadband technologies (these use light signals instead of electrical ones like copper). Only after that second stage has largely completed in an exchange area can you really start to switch-off copper in favour of fibre, which is a longer process (i.e. it takes time to deploy FTTP and then you have to allow time for natural customer migration etc.).
As above, the process for moving from copper to FTTP lines begins once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive that full fibre connectivity. The target for this is often c.24 months after the fibre roll-out starts, while the copper switch-off might then occur c.3 years after that (consumer migration is a slow process). The pace of this progress may vary from place to place, as some areas will be faster to tackle than others.
The migration process itself usually starts with a “no move back” policy for premises connected with FTTP (i.e. no going back to copper), followed by a “stop-sell” of copper services to new customers (12-months’ notice is usually given before this starts) and ultimately full withdrawal.
The New Areas
Until today a total of 169 FTTP exchange upgrades had been notified (c.1.8 million UK premises) as part of the aforementioned process (including the Salisbury trial exchange). The first batch of 118 UK exchange locations, where they would stop selling their old analogue phone services by 29th June 2021, were announced in May 2020 (here).
After that a further 51 were announced in October 2020 (here), which means that FTTP will be available to more than 75% of homes in these locations by 5th October 2021 and thus the migration can begin. Now we have a second batch of 51 exchange locations, which brings the total to 220 and this batch will see a “stop sell” being introduced from 25th January 2022.
Unlike previous announcements Openreach has not yet released the latest list to the public, which is a little odd since consumers will be directly affected by these changes and need to be kept informed. As such we’ve had to piece it together ourselves and the result is below. We would encourage the network access provider to ensure this information is always made public.
Jan 2021 List of 51 New ‘stop sell’ Exchanges
Exchange Name Location
Whitburn West Lothian
Epsom Epsom and Ewell
Molesey Greater London
Aughton Green West Lancashire
Chorleywood Three Rivers
Whitley Bay North Tyneside
North Bristol, City of
Sheering Epping Forest
Lundin Links Fife
West Calder West Lothian
Burscough West Lancashire
Clitheroe Ribble Valley
Rufford West Lancashire
Betchworth Mole Valley
Neston Cheshire West and Chester
Congleton Cheshire East
West Kingsdown Sevenoaks
Crook County Durham
Olney Milton Keynes
Tarvin Cheshire West and Chester
Okehampton West Devon
Comber Newtownards & Bangor
Warrenpoint Warrenpoint, The Burren
Whitehead Whitehead, Ballycarry
Article by Mark Jackson ISPreview