Openreach (BT) has released the Tranche 7 batch of 98 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” network (FTTP and G.fast at 300Mbps+).
Just for context, 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 are both introducing VoIP style voice solutions for customers).NOTE: Openreach’s full fibre currently covers c.6 million UK premises (build rate of c.47,300 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 is expected to peak at c.75,000 per week.
The second stage involves the ongoing rollout of faster Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure – using light signals via optical fibre, instead of slower electrical signals 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 user 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 will be small and is only relevant where speeds of 300Mbps+ are achievable.
The target for the above is often c.24 months after the fibre deployment starts, while the copper switch-off might then occur c.3 years after that (consumer migration is an inherently 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 98 Exchange Locations (Tranche 7)
The 98 exchanges announced today – covering 954,000 premises – take the total number of exchange upgrades that have already been notified as part of the aforementioned process (including trial exchanges) to over 550 – covering around 5 million premises. All of today’s new additions will introduce their “stop sell” from 8th February 2023.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) – here and here.
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.
As well as the stopping the selling of legacy analogue services, Openreach today confirmed that they’re now preparing to shutdown and withdraw older analogue products in their two original trial areas – Salisbury and Mildenhall – and they’ve just begun to notifying Communications Providers (ISPs) that these products will be withdrawn in Spring 2023.
The Mildenhall trial is testing the processes for withdrawing Wholesale Line Rental (WLR), and migrating customers from legacy copper services to replacement copper services which will support the delivery of telephone services over broadband connections. By comparison, the Salisbury trial will test the processes for migrating customers to fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper services.
Openreach has provided 15-months’ notice for the above change. This notice period will begin on 19th January 2022, with product withdrawal on 19 April 2023
Remember, the following list is tentative, so changes and delays do sometimes occur.
98 New Stop Sell Exchanges (Tranche 7)
|Exchange Name||Location||Exchange Code|
|Balham||Greater London – Wandsworth||LSBAL|
|Bamber Bridge||Bamber Bridge||LCBAB|
|Biggin Hill||Greater London – Bromley||NDBHI|
|Boston Spa||Boston Spa||MYBOS|
|Burton Joyce||Burton Joyce||EMBURTJ|
|Bury||Greater Manchester – Bury||MRBUR|
|Grove Park||Greater London – Lewisham||LSGRO|
|Hayes Common||Greater London – Bromley||LSHAY|
|Horwich||Greater Manchester – Bolton||LCHOR|
|Hyde||Greater Manchester – Tameside||MRHYD|
|Langford||Langford (Central Bedfordshire)||SMLA|
|Leigh||Greater Manchester – Wigan||LCLEI|
|Park Street||How Wood||LNPKS|
|Richmond, North Yorkshire||Richmond||NERN|
|Stanford Le Hope||Stanford-le-Hope||EASTF|
|Theydon Bois||Theydon Bois||LNTHB|
|Wootton Bassett||Wootton Bassett||SSWOB|