Broadband News

Chelsea exchange to close in 2018

Moving thousands of phone lines from one exchange to another is not an overnight task and with the news that the Chelsea exchange (WRCHEL) is due to close by early 2018, Openreach has announced a rough timeline that will see telephone lines gradually moving starting in the Autumn to the South Kensington exchange (WRSKEN) which is roughly 1.2km away.

For those already using a VDSL2 service the impact on their broadband should be nil, since South Kensington is where the fibre from the cabinets already heads to, and the disruption on phone services should be minimal as changes are set to be done overnight.

For those who have resisted the move to VDSL/FTTC so far the change may add 1.2 to 1.5km of copper to the distance the ADSL2+ has to travel (the Chelsea exchange has a Sky and TalkTalk LLU presence too) thus reducing speeds. To encourage as many people as possible to upgrade earlier rather than later to FTTC there is a special offer for providers selling to customers in the Chelsea exchange area, with a free self install or just £50+VAT for a managed install (i.e. engineer visit) plus the bonus of the service being free for the first six months on all VDSL2 speeds. This offer only applies for orders received by Openreach during the period 1st July to 30th September 2016 and you have to be an existing ADSL2+ customer upgrading to VDSL2. Hopefully providers will make use of the offer and pass on savings.

At present not all of the Chelsea exchange has access to VDSL2 as some cabinets are not enabled and the age old problem of exchange only lines exists, our understanding is that all the cabinets are now on a timeline to being live, with some expected over the next few months and others including new cabinets for exchange only lines looking at a time frame of 9 to 12 months.

We have made enquiries to find out how the copper move will be done, since for cabinets already close to the South Kensington exchange if the copper is redirected close to the cabinet a good number of people may see little or no change in their ADSL2+ speeds. It will also be useful to know if the copper is expected to go from cabinets direct to South Kensington or will the routing go via pavement chambers near to the old Chelsea exchange location as we can then better predict the ADSL2+ speeds in the area after the move.

Update 7pm Okay took a while to get our answer as it was the question that needed Openreach to go away and find the answer. The copper telephone lines will be redirected to the South Kensington exchange via a location near to the existing Chelsea exchange. This means almost everyone still on an ADSL/ADSL2+ service will see an increase in attenuation (line length) and thus a reduction in connection speed.


Funny It took so long to get an answer, more likely took yjat long to get approval to tell you. They have known how they are doing the transfers for over a year.

Local cables tend to run back towards the serving exchange, so without providing new ducts ( Improbable in London) it was unlikely that most lines would be able to be intercepted much closer to S.Ken.

Worst cabinets would be those in the S.west of Chelsea exchange area, South West of A3220.

  • jumpmum
  • over 4 years ago

There are some new ducts going in and I imagine these have been going in for a while. Unlikely they'd have had sufficient capacity in the existing ones.

LLU has a lot to answer for. Had we a similar network to some incumbents, the kind VM have where copper is terminated in street cabinets, this would've been easier.

  • CarlThomas
  • over 4 years ago

I'm not surprised that lines will be re-homed using "tromboning" from an interconnect point near the old exchange. Whilst puzzling why my parent's line had the characteristic of a 3km line when only 1km for the (1960s built) exchange it all went via a cabinet near the old village exchange site. Thus an extra 2km of cable length.

  • TheEulerID
  • over 4 years ago

Is it time BT forgot about copper and put POTS over fibre as well as part of an FTTP rollout? Loads of copper scrap money, loads of empty duct space and forget Chelsea being replaced by Kensington, Kensington could be replaced by an out of London exchange. Who is it in BT that has a copper addiction?

  • rjohnloader
  • over 4 years ago

The first part is in progress - though only to the extent of making it possible to do without the E-side copper. SOGEA is the beginning step in the end of old-fashioned voice services.

By 2030, you could indeed be saying bye-bye to a lot of exchanges.

Who has the copper addiction? The men who have to make the business profitable. The ones for whom a copper pair in hand is worth 20 fibres in the bush, to badly repurpose an old saying.

G.Fast keeps value in the one in hand.

  • WWWombat
  • over 4 years ago

On copper replacement, as this would have to be done on a live network and given existing telephone USO lots of people being sent battery backup units for their phone line so fibre ONT can operate, plus a need to install fibre ONT into every home (even if they don't want it)

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • over 4 years ago


The copper in the network often doesn't pay the cost of recovering it. As for duct space. Well, that's fine. But as the copper network has to be run in parallel with any new fibre network for a several years, that means more congestion in the earl days (You can't decommission the copper until all lines in an area are converted).
Also, Ofcom mandate that MPF must be provided, There is no regulator framework that allows OR to enforce a move.
A move to cabinet based services makes migratory sense, but OR are not in full control other their network due to Ofcom regulation (esp LLU)

  • TheEulerID
  • over 4 years ago

I think we'll get a flavour of how the regulatory environment could change by watching the USO negotiations over the next few months. That'll be the time for the existing voice provisions to be bargained away in exchange for replacement data provisions.

  • WWWombat
  • over 4 years ago

I hope, for the sake of those on this exchange, that BT have learnt their lessons and it goes better than the closure of Moorgate. Some were without ADSL for 6 months after that.
Line lengths on tromboned lines are weird (maybe to do with the tech used ?). At a site just east of Smithfield market, served originally by Wood St. exchange, which was shifted to Baynard House, I saw attenuation equivalent to a line length of 3Km. The wires would have needed to go out of the City and back again to manage that....

  • mpellatt
  • over 4 years ago

Posted by rjohnloader 6 days ago

openreach is responsible up the termination point in your house -- POTs is end of your driveway -- the pay or DIY) so not going to happen as that is part of condition of licence -- bigges issue is Copper is massive part of the Service provider requirement -- and round 400 of those dont offer fibre - and only around 10 of the 150 that do consume FTTP and most of those that do are niche

  • fastman
  • over 4 years ago

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