Openreach Moves Customers Away From Copper Network In Salisbury

Openreach has announced a ‘UK first’, after customers in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury became the first to switch to a full fibre network.

The BT subsidiary announced that customers in Salisbury will from Tuesday, no longer will be able to buy a traditional landline or broadband product that utilises the copper-based network that has existed in parts of the UK for as long as 140 years.

Instead, if customers in that city want to upgrade, regrade or switch their broadband or telephone provider using the Openreach network, they will only be able to order Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP or Full Fibre) broadband technology.

Retiring copper

Openreach it should be remembered, plans to stop selling copper-based products nationally from September 2023, before switching to full fibre in 2025.

That however does not include voice calls on the copper network, as the nationwide deployment of FTTP is expected to take longer than that.

But it is clear that Openreach intends (where practical) to switch premises to full fibre as soon as possible, with Salisbury being the first UK city to achieve this status.

Openreach said that since March this year, more than 22,000 homes and businesses in Salisbury have been able to take advantage of Openreach’s FTTP network thanks to “multi-million-pound investment in the city by the UK’s biggest digital network builder.”

Openreach said that so far, more than 2,500 homes and businesses in Salisbury have upgraded to the new Full Fibre network in the last nine months, giving them access to broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps.

A video explaining the Salisbury Full Fibre project can be found here.

“And from today, customers in the city will no longer be able to buy a traditional copper landline or broadband product,” Openreach said. “Instead, if they want to upgrade, regrade or switch their broadband or telephone provider using the Openreach network, they’ll only be able to order ultra-reliable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP or Full Fibre) broadband technology, giving them ultrafast download speeds of up to 1Gbps through a great selection of retailers.”

Salisbury had been a pilot location for Openreach’s Full Fibre programme, as it explored and tested ways to upgrade the UK’s landline network to full fibre. This means that voice calls are also carried on the fibre network instead of over copper wires.

Until now, in fibre equipped locations, Openreach had tended to route voice calls over the copper network, whilst the fibre cables handled the broadband connectivity.

FTTP deployment

“Salisbury is now one of the best-connected places in the UK and we want everyone in the city to benefit from our investment,” explained James Tappenden, Openreach’s Fibre First director.

“Full Fibre is more reliable and faster so can help us do much more online in a more efficient way,” said Tappenden. “Our new network is future-proofed so will be ready for the next wave of bandwidth hungry applications which residents and businesses will demand so will serve Salisbury well for decades to come. We’re leading the way in the UK’s digital upgrade and this is just the beginning.”

“The traditional landline has served us well for generations, but it can’t go on indefinitely – and by December 2025 it will have reached the end of its life,” said Tappenden. “By September 2023 Openreach will stop selling copper-based products nationally in preparation for withdrawal at the end of 2025.”

Openreach is should be remembered is currently investing £12 billion to deliver Full Fibre (FTTP) to 20 million premises between 2025 and 2029.

That unfortunately will leave approximately 10 million premises without full fibre provision.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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