Openreach (BT) has published the Tranche 6 batch of 79 UK exchange areas where they plan to move away from copper-based analogue phone (PSTN / WLR etc.) services and on to a new all-IP network, which will occur once over 75% of premises in an area can get their “ultrafast broadband” (FTTP, G.fast) network.
Just to recap, there are two different, albeit closely related, stages to moving away from the old copper line infrastructure. The first starts with the gradual migration of traditional voice (PSTN) services to all-IP technologies, which is due to complete by December 2025 and is occurring on copper line (e.g. SOGEA) products (i.e. copper and full fibre ISPs will both need to introduce VoIP style voice solutions for customers).NOTE: Openreach’s full fibre currently covers 5.2 million UK premises (build rate of c.43,000 per week) and they aim to reach 25 million by Dec 2026 (here) – 6.2m of those will be in rural or semi-rural areas. The build rate will soon peak at c.75,000 per week.
The second stage involves the ongoing deployment of faster Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure – using light signals via optical fibre instead of slower electrical ones via copper. Only after this 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 build FTTP, and then you have to allow time for customer migration).
As above, the process for moving from copper to “fibre” begins once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive ultrafast connectivity. Hybrid fibre G.fast coverage also counts for this, but its impact is small and is only relevant where speeds of 300Mbps+ are achievable.
The target for the above 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 may vary from place to place, as some areas will have better network coverage 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 given before this starts) and ultimately full withdrawal.
The Next 75 Exchange Locations (Tranche 6)
The 79 exchanges announced today take the total number of exchange upgrades that have already been notified as part of the aforementioned process (including trial exchanges) to 455. All of the 79 new additions being announced will introduce their “stop sell” from 1st November 2022.NOTE: Openreach has around 5,600 exchanges, but hybrid fibre (FTTC, G.fast) and full fibre (FTTP) services are supplied via different exchanges (c.1,000 of that 5,600 total) – so 4,600 will eventually close (after 2030).
We should add that Openreach has a semi-related “Call Waiting List” campaign running (here), which aims to raise awareness among UK businesses of their plans to withdraw old copper-based analogue phone (PSTN / WLR etc.) services by December 2025 and replace them with digital (IP / VoIP) alternatives. The operator has also added a Stop Sells Page to their website, which makes it a bit easier to see all of these changes.
Remember, the following list is tentative, so changes and delays do sometimes occur.
79 New Stop Sell Exchanges (Tranche 6)
|Exchange Name||Location||Exchange Code|
|West Hanney||Vale of White Horse||SMWHY|
|Burnham On Crouch||Maldon||EABNH|
|Chester South||Cheshire West and Chester||WNCSS|
|Kings Lynn||King’s Lynn and West Norfolk||EAKLN|
|Merthyr Tydfil||Merthyr Tydfil||SWMT/EX|
|Kings Langley||Three Rivers||LWKLAN|
|Bowmans Green||St Albans||LNBGN|
|Aghalee||Lisburn and Castlereagh||NIAL|
|Ahoghill||Mid and East Antrim||NIAH|
|Annalong||Newry, Mourne and Down||NIAA|
|Ballycastle||Causeway Coast and Glens||NIBT|
|Ballygally||Mid and East Antrim||NIBGL|
|Ballygowan||Ards and North Down||NIBN|
|Ballykinler||Newry, Mourne and Down||NIBKR|
|Ballynahinch||Newry, Mourne and Down||NIBNH|
|Belcoo||Fermanagh and Omagh||NIBCO|
|Belleek||Fermanagh and Omagh||NIBEK|
|Bushmills||Causeway Coast and Glens||NIBH|
|Bessbrook||Newry, Mourne and Down||NIBSB|
|Castlewellan||Newry, Mourne and Down||NICW|
|Crumlin||Antrim and Newtownabbey||NICMN|
|Cullybackey||Mid and East Antrim||NICB|
|Cushendun||Causeway Coast and Glens||NICSD|
|Derryadd||Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon||NIDRY|
|Derrygonnelly||Fermanagh and Omagh||NIDY|
|Derrylin||Fermanagh and Omagh||NIDYN|
|Drumbo||Lisburn and Castlereagh||NIDBO|
|Glenarm||Mid and East Antrim||NIGM|
|Kesh||Fermanagh and Omagh||NIKH|
|Lisnaskea||Fermanagh and Omagh||NILA|
|Randalstown||Antrim and Newtownabbey||NIRT|
|Tandragee||Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon||NITG|
One small issue. Despite the announcement mentioning 79 exchanges, the official list for Tranche 6 only names 76.