Telecoms regulator Ofcom is set to trial a new approach towards the switch-off of the UK's copper cabling networks that will see it take a softer touch.
According to ISPReview, the scheme will take place in Salisbury, where Openreach’s new FTTP Exchange Upgrade is taking place.
This is set to be the first real-world test of the upgrade process from copper to full fibre technology. It follows proposals set out by the infrastructure provider last year that will see exchanges moved from copper to fibre once 75 per cent of premises are able to receive an ultrafast connection, defined as download speeds of at least 100Mbps.
Switching off outdated copper networks is a key part of the government's plan to move every home and business in the country to a fibre-to-the-premises connection, and nationwide migrations are expected to be completed by the mid 2030s.
Salisbury is said to be an ideal candidate for testing how these processes will work, as it is already earmarked to receive FTTP services to all 20,000 premises in the city by April 2020 as part of Openreach's full fibre deployment, while it also offers a diverse network in the area.
In order to facilitate the test, Ofcom will suspend rules that currently require Openreach to provide wholesale access to standard and superfast broadband on its copper network. Under the plan, Openreach will no longer be obligated to provide copper services where there is a full fibre line available as an alternative.
However, for now, this will only apply when customers move house, change broadband suppliers, or adjust their services, so residents who do want to remain on copper will be able to do so.
Ofcom stated: "We will work with communications providers to put safeguards in place to protect vulnerable customers during the trial. For example, they will be able to pause migration or restore copper services at short notice if necessary."
A new consultation proposes to introduce these changes to the Salisbury area from September 2020, and is open for feedback until 6th September 2019.