First UK telecoms operator switches off copper network

Created August 31, 2022

UK independent operator WightFibre, which provides phone, tv and broadband services to homes and businesses on the Isle of Wight, has switched off its copper network and moved all its existing customers to a full fibre network. The company has been operating a hybrid fibre-coaxial network (cable) network on the Isle of Wight since 2001 and in 2018 it commenced the rollout of a full-fibre network across the island. Earlier this year the final few cable customers were upgraded to the new network.

John Irvine, CEO, said, “Our big copper switch-off was a major undertaking. For most customers the migration to full-fibre was seamless – their existing phones and analogue devices are supported on the new network with the notable exception of rotary dial telephones – thankfully there were only a few of those. A small number of customers with very old alarm systems did need to upgrade their alarm systems as these are incompatible with full-fibre. With business customers this extended to some older dial-up credit card machines and fax machines. In many case WightFibre helped with these changes to persuade customers to upgrade. Overall, the process ran fairly smoothly. Our customers love the new network, the faster speeds, and the much-improved reliability.”

The WightFibre Gigabit Island Project will see full-fibre broadband deployed to around 80,000 homes and business across the Island by 2023 and is already available to over 40,000 households. The Isle of Wight, which lies some three miles off the south coast of England, has a resident population of around 143,000. The scale of the civil engineering project is reflected in figures that show how 500 Kilometres of trenches will be dug, containing 5 million meters of duct and 750 million metres of fibre-optic cable. WightFibre’s switch-off is some 10 years ahead of the rest of the UK. Incumbent BT Openreach has a target date of 2035 for switching off its copper network with the current focus on the PSTN switch-off, which WightFibre carried out in 2018.

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.