Ofcom proposes changes to copper requirements in Salisbury
Ofcom has a consultation running over the summer holiday period (i.e. ends 6th September 2019) with regards to allowing Openreach to not provide new copper based services on the Salisbury exchange once its stop sell notification takes effect in what is expected to be September 2019.
Salisbury was announced by Openreach as aiming for it to be its first 100% full fibre exchange and if the build goes well are aiming for 75% FTTP coverage in September 2019 (we have seen the build start and some properties have FTTP available in two cabinet areas though with a 330 Mbps speed limit, suggesting ECI hardware). The exchange covers some 20,000 premises and there are some additional premises in new build areas where Openreach are locked out in addition to some Openreach fibre only new build properties.
The Ofcom proprosal is to allow Openreach to stop providing new copper based services when people move house, change service or switch provider.
The Openreach plan in conjunction with the communication providers who use their network is to migrate everyone to a full fibre service, so that it can switch off the copper network. The expectation is that there will be snags along the way hence doing a single exchange such as Salisbury first to learn what the problems are and how difficult the problems are to resolve. Openreach will learn massively from the trial but it will also deliver important information for other full fibre providers who are rolling out or planning to roll-out in the UK.
The Ofcom proposal is designed to ensure that vulnerable people are not put at a disadvantage i.e. they can refuse the switch over if they have something connected to the phone line that will not work over a voice over broadband connection or just refuse the installation of the fibre itself. The challenge for the retailers and Openreach of course will be working to get this number of refusals down to zero, since there is a danger that the situation may be that just a dozen people with copper services are stopping the switch off of the legacy service.
At this time we do not know what the precise plans are for the area but we presume a lot of fibre switch-over material will be appearing in the local press, radio and TV and properties will get leaflets to let them know that the switch over is on the way.
As people do get confused on the premises passed metric, the hope from Openreach is to have around 15,000 premises passed in September 2019 and for the build to continue until that reaches 100%. The fibre switch-over will subsequently mean that the penetration rate will shoot up as different roads are swamped with people taking the fibre from the final fibre manifold in the pavement or on a pole into the property.
The Ofcom proposal does protect leaseholders in the scenario where the building owner refuses installation of the fibre, since the copper based services cannot be withdrawn unless full fibre is available.
We don't expect the average observed speeds in Salisbury to explode into the 100's of Mega bits per second immediately but removal of ADSL2+ could see the median download speed rise slightly to 34-36 Mbps from the current 27.4 Mbps, the mean will be higher but probably only in the 40 Mbps to 50 Mbps region. Only if the public choose to pay for the over 100 Mbps speed tiers or providers offer incentives for people to upgrade will we see a big jump. Of course in a couple more years when speeds of 40 Mbps are feeling distinctly slow will we see more people buying the 100 and faster tiers and once on full fibre that switch is easier.