British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a supplementary consultation to its Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review (WFTMR), putting forward plans to revise previous proposals which would allow for the withdrawal of remaining regulations on copper services where fibre services are available, and where certain conditions are met in exchanges where ultrafast coverage is complete.
BT’s network arm Openreach is understood to be planning to upgrade its copper network to fibre on an exchange-by-exchange basis, and as each exchange is upgraded the company plans to migrate customers to the new network and then withdraw copper services altogether. Ofcom set out a proposed policy on copper retirement as part of the WFTMR consultation it published in January this year; in this it said the aim of its copper retirement proposals was to promote fibre investment by shifting the focus of regulation from copper to fibre, to support the migration to fibre services.
As per these initial proposals, Ofcom did not propose to allow Openreach to withdraw existing copper services during the market review period (2021-2026). However, the regulator now notes that since the January 2020 consultation Openreach has identified 168 exchanges (in addition to a trial Salisbury exchange) where it expects to provide ultrafast services to 75% of premises in each exchange area. As such, Ofcom said in its latest consultation on the matter: ‘Given the speed at which Openreach’s fibre roll out is progressing, we now believe that where there are a limited number of customers remaining on copper services, and there are fibre services available to them, it may be reasonable to allow Openreach to withdraw copper services in some cases during the WFTMR market review period.’
A deadline of 26 November 2020 has been set for the submission of comments to the consultation.