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When should we rip out the copper network?
Posted on 26-Feb-2014 08:46 by Bill Bennett. | Tags Filed under: News.

Does it make sense to pull the plug on New Zealandís copper telephone network as fibre goes in?

The New Zealand government put the question to one side when it planned the UFB network.

Suddenly, itís on the agenda.

When it announced its annual result on Monday Chorus, the company that runs the copper network, said it will cut spending on the copper network to find the savings it needs to keep its fibre project on track.

Paul McBeth reports for Businessdesk:

Chorus, the network operator spun out of Telecom in 2011, will clamp down on investing in its legacy copper lines to help drive some $400 million in savings over the next six years as it looks to fill a $1 billion funding hole to build a nationwide fibre network.

One way of reading the companyís statement is copper is the first thing for the chop when the chips are down.

Considering the copper network is a Chorus asset, that attitude speaks volumes.

Former Tuanz CEO Ernie Newman makes this case for ripping out the copper network commenting on a post I wrote on the IITP TechBlog:

When roads get upgraded to cut out the sharp corners, the old windy bits donít get left open as an alternative Ė everyone migrates straight away to the new diversion.

Likewise from a ďNZ IncĒ approach it would be very sensible to cut the whole country across to fibre and switch off the copper as soon as its available. Just like analogue TV but much faster. Why maintain two networks?

Sure there would be losers, and issues around compensation. But if this is the right answer from a national perspective, lets address those commercial issues and get on with it.†Itís not too late.

Current Tuanz CEO Paul Brislen makes a slightly different point on his organisationís blog:

Öthe day will come when each area is completed and Chorus can switch off the copper network. That needs to be managed and planning should start now.

Whangarei will be fully fibred this year Ė thereís no need for Chorus to continue maintaining a network that is surplus to requirements, yet no thought has been given to Chorusís requirement to provide the network of last choice.

Once fibre is available to all properties in an area, the copper can go. Thatís something we need to plan for right now.

This is a measured approach which shouldnít frighten anyone.

On a purely practical level, ripping out copper networks makes perfect sense for most New Zealanders ó the 75 percent living in towns ó who will be on a spanking new fibre-to-the-premise network by the end of 2019.

In theory, most of the rest of the population will be using††copper network for the foreseeable future.

Actually that may not be strictly true, Northpower has previously talked of extending its fibre network beyond the UFB area. Iíve heard enough talk from Chorus and other UFB builders about plans to go outside their government mandated areas once the UFB project completes to convince me that sooner or later fibre will displace copper just about everywhere practical. And there are wireless technologies for where it isnít practical.

The theory is good, but but the main problem with ripping out copper as fibre goes in isnít technical or economic, itís political. New Zealanders donít react well to this kind of central government diktat.

Switching off analogue TV may have been relatively painless, but there was a lot of grumbling in small-c conservative circles. Older people in particular are wedded to the idea of Ďrealí phones with dial tone and large toll-free local calling areas.

One immediate political advantage of ripping out copper is it neutralises a lot of the fuss over the so-called Ďcopper taxí.

So any move to rip out copper is essentially a political calculus. Somewhere in a bunker in Wellington thereís a spreadsheet balancing the benefits of an end to wrangling over copper regulation against upsetting grannies attached to the comforting buzz of a copper line dial tone.

The post When should we rip out the copper network? appeared first on digitl.

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