By 2026, Openreach, the wholly owned subsidiary of UK telecoms company BT Group, plan to shut down the copper wire network and replace it with a fibre optic broadband network.
What is changing and why?
Copper: slow speed and poor reliability
For over 100 years, telecommunications network infrastructure has been using copper. This network was built using copper wires and was intended to accommodate bi-directional telephone calls over long distances. The evolution of the internet and broadband services have now dictated that faster speed and greater bandwidth capacity are essential requirements for the future - for which a copper network is no longer capable of supporting.
The download speeds that users experience with a copper network is largely dependent on how far away their property is from the phone exchange - this is one of the main reasons for change. Reliability is also an issue especially in rural locations, with connection drop outs due to old and poor condition network infrastructure.
Fibre: faster data transmission and enhanced reliability
A fibre optic network can transmit data more quickly, features enhanced security, requires less maintenance, and allows more flexibility because of its bandwidth and speed. This means businesses and consumers can do more - cloud computing, media streaming, internet phone calls, video conferencing, etc. become accessible to all especially now as many more people are working from home and rely on online services.
Copper phase out
Demand for broadband, video, data, voice and TV, and the highest speeds possible are constantly increasing. Internet service providers and telephone companies have a desire to switch to internet protocol-based systems and eliminate using the copper-based telephone network for good.
When is the changeover happening?
Openreach, who maintain the telephone cables, cabinets and exchanges that connect nearly all homes and businesses in the United Kingdom to the national broadband and telephone network, has announced an aggressive plan that by 2026 that they will start shutting down the ageing copper wire network.
This timeframe presents a huge undertaking for Openreach and many businesses as they begin to prepare for the Copper switch off. There will however be a phased approach with interim solutions to keep businesses and consumers connected.
For the future
The move to internet-based technology will gather pace with future voice services delivered via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems taking over from existing telecoms setups. A VoIP phone system will provide businesses with lower call costs and more flexibility. Once a VoIP system is installed, calls from your desktop PC, laptop, mobile phone, and tablet can be made along with access to business IT systems and data services.
The features and benefits of these new internet-based systems do however rely on new, robust fibre network infrastructure being put in place over the next few years.