Broadband News

Has Sky News conflated WLR switch off plans with copper replacement plans?

We may be wrong but to us the Sky News coverage on secret talks to turn off copper everywhere in the UK in 2027 read very like a journalist at Sky has seen some of the WLR switch off plans (scheduled for 2025) or heard of them third hand and is conflating this with other talks around how the Governments 100% full fibre plans for 2025 can be reached.

We have chased Openreach to clarify if this something beyond the WLR switch off plans.

Sky News has learnt that BT is spearheading an initiative which has been under discussion with other companies, regulators and ministers for a number of weeks.

Under the plans, which have been developed by BT's chief executive, Philip Jansen, full-fibre broadband would replace existing copper networks on a region-by-region basis over the next six years.

A final switch-off date of 2027 is being earmarked for customers using the remaining copper lines as part of the negotiations between the various parties.

Consumers and businesses would be given two years in each area of the country to move their service to a new full-fibre provider, with the industry confident it can hit Boris Johnson's target of universal fast broadband across Britain by 2025.

The 2025 WLR switch off which is holding a number of events for industry across the country currently will affect some 16 million WLR lines and will be a phased shift from the old fashioned PSTN network to voice over the broadband connection. The events are not that secret as we have attended two now, one this week and one earlier in the year, what is interesting is that at the event some similarities were observed between the 2012 TV Digital Switchover and the WLR switch off, but mainly in the way that some people will need additional help and reassurance around the changes and a key point is that communication via national and regional press will be crucial to managing things.

The key point of the WLR switch off as shown by the two trial locations of Salisbury and Mildenhall is the Salisbury trial is to attempt a shift to everyone using FTTP (including those who don't use a broadband service today) and Mildenhall will be a mixed mode of broadband area, some FTTP but lots more GFast and VDSL2 (known as SOGFAST and SOGEA in WLR speak). 

The Mildenhall area will see the copper between the street cabinet and premises still being used but once the migrations are complete the copper between the exchange and the cabinet will effectively become redundant.

Sky also claims the following "with the industry confident it can hit Boris Johnson's target of universal fast broadband across Britain by 2025" which makes no sense, since the 2025 target is a full fibre one, with the possibility of watering down to a Gigabit one. The two largest public plans for full fibre are 15 million from Openreach and another 5 million from CityFibre, followed by several million from others so once allowing for overlaps best case scenario from what is in the public realm is 20 million premises passed or around two thirds coverage. If collective industry is actually confident that it can deliver 100% for 2025 it has done an incredibly poor job of communicating this or the 'secret' talks are around industry saying we are confident that collectively we can do 2/3rds how is Government going to do the rest.

Exploring copper broadband switch off for 2027 if its real, it means all premises connected via ADSL2+/VDSL2/ need to be passed by full fibre and also an engineer attend for the time it takes to install the fibre and ONT into the property. So that is a lot of work to be done and big questions about what choice people have e.g. someone with VDSL2 from Plusnet who is not passed by Openreach FTTP but has toob FTTP available will they have no choice but to join toob? For competitors to BT Group and Openreach a bulk move to full fibre raises important competition questions.

Update 9:40am Quick reaction from CityFibre which seems to suggest maybe Ofcom is a driving force and they are worrying about the competition element.

In light of our funded and mobilised Gigabit City programme to deploy wholesale full fibre infrastructure to at least five million homes, Ofcom’s exclusive focus on BT Openreach as the vehicle for migration from copper to fibre is wrong. Retiring the copper network needs to be managed in a way that promotes competition, benefiting every builder of fibre networks, rather than simply reinforcing BT Openreach’s existing market dominance. Consumers should have the power to switch to any full fibre network. CityFibre stands ready to play its part in transferring the nation’s homes and businesses onto a new generation of fibre networks.

Greg Mesch, Chief Executive Officer at CityFibre


Nothing to see here - just the Murdochs throwing their weight behind a certain politician.

  • andrum992
  • about 1 year ago

A little slide or side step towards universal 'superfast' by 2025 is possible and gives the politicians enough of what they would need. They only need to re-commit to completing BDUK in rural with the existing funds. He can accuse David Cameron of lacking ambition with a 10Mbps USO and get it reviewed.

  • ValueforMoney
  • about 1 year ago

Things have moved on - if these talks are described correctly and the 2025 Government target is 100% Gigabit then talk of universal superfast is old hat, since Gigabit trumps 30 Mbps by a massive margin.

Reviewing the USO which means stopping it now would stop lots of people getting help in 2020 who might otherwise have to wait till 2024/25 for the universal superfast you are campaigning for.

As for recommit to BDUK in rural, there was talk before contracts got signed of what you claim but a contract trumps talk.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

Things are not moving that quickly, your estimate of 2040 ish is entirely sensible. The current BT Fttp enthuasism has plenty of reality to embrace. Take-up on urban overbuild will be tough, while take -up in rural is pretty much guaranteed. A very short-time ago Gavin was presenting G.FAST as a panacea.
Contracts subject to high levels of normalised deviancy do not trump anything. It makes things difficult. The EFRA report may trigger a public inquiry if the funds do not get turned into coverage. Ofcom have yet to consult on funding the B-USO so there will be of room to get things fixed.

  • ValueforMoney
  • about 1 year ago

Take-up guaranteed in rural areas? Care to explain and quantify

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

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