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Openreach ‘won’t re-install copper’ after moving wholesale customers to fibre

Openreach Salisbury.jpg

BT’s Openreach last-mile subsidiary says it doesn’t want to re-install copper connections to premises once it’s installed fibre.

The division, which provides wholesale connections to all telecoms operators in the UK, says it is consulting with them on how best to upgrade their retail customers from copper connections to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology.

This follows on from an earlier consultation on withdrawing copper-based services by 2025 and “is about the withdrawing the underlying infrastructure” that provides those services.

The news comes a day after one of Openreach’s most vigorous competitors, CityFibre, said it has raised its FTTP target to one million UK homes for its joint venture with Vodafone.

Katie Milligan, Openreach’s managing director for customer, commercial and propositions, said: “More than 16 million homes and businesses could order better broadband connections over our network right now, so we’d encourage everyone to check the services available to them and upgrade today.”

The company said it is already on track to make FTTP broadband technology available to three million homes and businesses by the end of 2020, and it wants to go much further – to 10 million premises and beyond under the right conditions.

Milligan added: “We’re consulting with broadband providers to decide how and when we upgrade customers to even faster, more reliable and future-proof, full fibre broadband.”

Openreach has set out its guiding principles for the consultation – notably, that it wants to offer “a compelling, simple portfolio of products that supports new retail voice and broadband services”. These will be wholesale products, as Openreach does not sell in the retail market.

The company wants to work closely with telcos “to upgrade every customer” as soon as an exchange area moves to FTTP. It wants to upgrade “the large majority of people voluntarily, while developing an industry process for late adopters”.

One of the challenges is that some customers would not necessarily use the extra services that can be delivered over fibre – perhaps putting the return on investment into question.

But that’s also why Openreach is also saying it will not want to re-install copper connections once it has taken them out and replaced them with fibre.  

It has told telcos that it wants to withdraw copper-based services “progressively”, though Openreach hasn’t given a deadline. However the company says it wants “to bring the UK closer to the Government’s aim of nationwide FTTP network by 2033”.

Milligan said: “We believe this consultation is crucial to that process, and it will support further investment from across the industry. We’re really ambitious about upgrading the UK to the fastest, most reliable broadband there is.”

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