As UK full fibre rollout continues, BT announces halt to sales of new copper telephones lines, after more than a century
BT Openreach has confirmed that it has now put ‘the stopper on copper’, after the UK telecoms carrier halted the sale of new copper-based telephones lines.
It confirmed the move to end sales of new copper telephone lines in a blog post, and it comes after more than a century of it and its predecessor (the General Post Office etc) utilising the versatile material as a backbone to build the UK’s public switched telephone network (PSTN).
Openreach is currently in the process of transitioning the UK to a full fibre network (FTTP), after the government had set an ambitious target of making 1Gbps capable broadband available to at least 85 percent of the country by 2025.
Full fibre move
To help achieve this target, the UK regulator Ofcom in March 2021 agreed the pricing and other conditions needed for Openreach parent BT to commit £12 billion of its own money for the rollout of FTTP.
Following Ofcom’s pricing agreement, Openreach announced in May 2021 that it would increase and expand its build out of Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) to 25 million premises, despite having to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic at the time.
Want to know more about the history of BT and Openreach? Read Silicon UK’s Tales in Tech History article
But the Covid pandemic did have an impact, and Openreach now intends to connect 25 million premises to full fibre by the end of December 2026 instead.
It has currently connected 11 million premises to FTTP.
And now BT has signalled the end of the line for new copper lines, and it comes after it has already begun retiring copper telephones in some locations.
Salisbury in Wiltshire for example became the first Openreach full fibre city in the UK in 2019.
“The humble copper wire has been the backbone of our telecommunications here in the UK and around the world for over a century,” said Openreach. “It has kept our hospitals, schools and emergency services connected, powered card machines on our high streets and delivered some of the most important phone conversations we’ve ever had with our family and friends.”
It said that over the century the vast majority of phone calls in the UK have been handled by BT’s copper based public switched telephone network (PSTN) – an analogue system which connects people using specific phone numbers.
“But being around for as long as it has, the PSTN’s become outdated and difficult to maintain,” it said. “Skills and parts are increasingly difficult to come by and new digital services like Voice over IP (VoIP) – where voice calls are transmitted the same way your broadband works, have become increasingly popular.”
Back in 2017, BT saw the of the line for copper and announced it would retire the PSTN network by the end of 2025.
“As part of this whole process, we’re now taking the significant step of ending the sale of new analogue services across the UK,” said Openreach. “That means from today, when customers sign up for a new contract – or when they switch, upgrade or re-grade their service via their provider – they’ll be moved onto a new digital line rather than an analogue one.”
“In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, the transition from traditional copper wires to advanced digital fibre optic lines has emerged as a game-changer, revolutionising the way we communicate, access information, and connect with the world,” said Openreach. “This shift is not just a minor upgrade; it’s a leap into the future of faster, more reliable, and efficient data transmission.”