Openreach Consult on plans to close 4,600 UK stock exchanges

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Network provider Openreach (BT) today launched a new consultation on its plans to shut down 4,600 exchanges across the UK, largely reflecting the inevitable shift from based broadband lines to copper for the benefit of an optical fiber to the premises. (FTTP) oriented towards the future.

As we recall, Openreach has about 5600 exchanges at present, but only 1,000 of these exchanges – called Openreach Handover Points (OHP) – are used to provide nationwide coverage of ” broadband fiber»(FTTC, FTTP and G.fast).

NOTE: Openreach predicts that by 2025, the number of copper broadband customers served by the 4,600 exchanges will drop to just 1 million (i.e., economically unsustainable).

In other words, rapid growth is heading towards “full fiber“Connectivity (here and here) has long been expected to precipitate consolidation in this area somewhat, as fewer such hubs will be needed to provide the new services (i.e. copper services are slowly being withdrawn, the number of exchanges shrink).

However, removing any trade remains a very complex and time-consuming task, which must be carefully planned well in advance. Indeed, the new consultation (here) talks about a program of more than 20 years of trade evolution, which seems fair as many other changes need to be made first (e.g. ISPs moving consumers to all IP networks and -up).

Matt Belcher, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer of Openreach, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are launching a consultation today to get our clients’ views on the proposed 4,600 trade closings across the UK.

Today, these exchanges support traditional copper-based phones and broadband, but, as we prepare to take the next step in the UK’s upgrade from analog to digital, we let’s invest in new fiber optic networks that will support upgrades to faster, digital speeds. voice services. This means that many of these exchanges will eventually become unsustainable for Openreach and Communication Providers (CPs), so closing them will be a natural next step.

This is a complex, long-term problem with implications for the entire industry. We therefore wish to work closely with our customers and the industry as a whole to help determine our strategy and plans. ”

The proposed plan indicates that Openreach can aim to exit at least 100 exchanges by December 2030 and full decommissioning of all equipment would follow a year later. After that, the process would speed up until the remaining 4,500 were completed, which could all happen in the early 2030s. Maintaining service continuity for end customers will be a key part of it all.

We suspect that concerns may be raised around those exchanges where competing ISPs, such as Sky Broadband and TalkTalk, have invested in unbundling in order to gain more control. Likewise, a large number of exchanges are also used to provide leased line services. As we say, none of this will be easy.

Openreach intends to prioritize those exchanges where the potential benefits of exit are greatest (eg those with very high running costs), and to focus on those first. Exchanges like this must also have been well covered by FTTP and must have reached relevant FTTP milestones for copper withdrawal by the mid-2020s. No doubt their trials at Salisbury and Mildenhall will provide useful insight. for all that.

The operator will not remove exchanges in areas where this would leave existing customers disconnected (i.e. no alternatives to fiber or FTTC).

The first 100 exchanges (December 2030)

The 36 exchanges marked with an asterisk above are currently Openreach Handover Point exchanges, but only a few of these will need to be consolidated into other OHP sites and so we don’t expect that many others follow the same path (Openreach expects to end up to around 960 OHP).

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