Business leaders want 2025 copper switch off date

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has called for the government to commit to a firm deadline on switching off the UK's aging copper telecoms infrastructure.

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Report (FTIR) released last week included a package of regulatory changes, public funding and new legislation that would deliver fibre to the entire of the UK by 2033. At this point, it suggested, the copper network could be switched off.

However, the IoD believes a more ambitious timetable would encourage fibre adoption and rollout, allowing employees to work remotely and permit business themselves to operate a more flexible approach using cloud software.

IoD fibre calls

“With an ever-changing world of work, business should be looking to enable employees to work flexibly,” said Dan Lewis, a senior advisor on infrastructure at the IoD. “Unfortunately, firms are paying the price for the neglect of full fibre connectivity. We are jogging while the rest of the world is sprinting. We need a copper switch-off date of 2025 or soon after.

“We welcomed many of the measures proposed in last week’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review to increase supply. The challenge to a fibre rollout is no longer about money. Going forward, the task will be educating landlords, consumers and businesses about the benefits of fibre.

“More difficult will be finding and training enough digital engineers to accelerate the fibre rollout from two million premises a year to over three million.”

Mobile operators have continually called for the greater availability of fibre in the UK as these ultrafast connections will be essential to providing backhaul for the site and small cell infrastructure that will power 5G networks.

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.