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End of the line for copper

Paul Brislen, Editor. 20 January 2020, 7:18 am

The end is nigh for copper services, with the Commerce Commission identifying the first areas where fibre will be the default service.

Following the deployment of the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB), Chorus has been in the difficult position of having to support two networks - the new fibre to the home service and the ageing copper network, built over the past 100 years and now rapidly becoming surplus to requirements.

The Commerce Commission, along with the telco industry, has put together a series of codes of practice around the eventual withdrawal of copper services, and the first such areas will potentially see service withdrawn from the middle of this year.

As ever with the telco sector, the new regions have their own three-letter acronym - they will be Specified fibre areas (SFAs) and the Commission has produced a map of the affected areas. Unfortunately the map is fully interactive so rather than spelling out where the SFAs are, users have to input street addresses to determine whether or not certain areas are affected.

However, given the new SFAs cover 1.5 million households in New Zealand (out of an estimated 1.7 million) that would suggest that Chorus can begin pulling out of the copper services market in a wholesale manner in the years ahead.

Of course, not everyone wants a broadband connection in their home and there has been some concern that the move to a fibre-based network will affect the most vulnerable members of society.

Unlike the old copper lines, which inherently use electricity to power the network, fibre services require a separate power source to run devices and in the event of a power failure there is concern that users may not be able to call emergency services.

A code of practice for emergency calling has been produced by the Commission and the industry and, after a short delay, will be deployed by mid-2020. Of course, given the prevalence of mobile phones in the community, such issues are less alarming than they were in the past.

Chorus says it will continue to support the copper network in places where fibre isn't yet available but ultimately the end is in sight for the network.



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