BT and government 'hatch' plan for full fibre rollout and copper switchoff by 2027

(Image credit: BT)

The UK’s copper broadband network could be switched off by 2027, with shut down occurring on regional basis like the switchover to digital terrestrial television (DTT) in 2012.

Sky News says BT and other telecoms organisations are in secret discussions with the government about a plan to roll out fibre to the entire country on an accelerated basis.

The government’s current target for switchover is 2033, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants this brought forward to 2025. The industry has said such an ambitious goal isn’t out of the question – but only if regulations are favourable and government financial support is present.

Fibre broadband 

A reported plan hatched by BT CEO Philip Jansen would see fibre replace copper region-by-region over the next six years, with a final switch off two years later. This would allow Johnson to claim it was done by 2025, and give consumers and businesses two years to switch to a fibre service.

The plan has been welcomed by Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, who is said to have met with Jansen as well as the chief executives of Openreach, TalkTalk, CityFibre and Ofcom to discuss the proposals.

Just eight per cent of premises (2.5m) in the UK currently have access to full fibre, with the majority connected via fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), which uses copper for the final few hundred metres of the connection. BT Openreach plans to cover four million properties with fibre by 2021 and 15 million by the mid-2020s, while Virgin Media, CityFibre and TalkTalk are working on their own rollouts.

The cost of extending coverage nationwide, including complex rural areas, is estimated to be more than £30 billion. It is understood that the plan is dependent on public subsidises being made available, as well as a relaxation on planning laws.

Operators will also want guarantees they will have access to the 35,000 engineers required to install fibre – something that will be more difficult after Brexit.

It is also expected that the government would help fund a publicity campaign to inform consuemrs and businesses of the changes – similar to the one created for the analogue TV switchover.

“As we made clear at the time of our last financial results there needs to be a determined acceleration towards a pro-investment policy and regulatory regime, so BT is keen to see the industry work together with government on the big challenges – such as digital switchover and rural coverage – that we all want to see addressed,” a BT spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

Via Sky News

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.