Chorus has today confirmed it will switch off its first copper cabinets in mid-March as it continues to upgrade New Zealanders to its fibre network. The company encourages New Zealanders to move off its copper lines where feasible, while it follows the strict processes set out in the Commerce Commission's Copper Withdrawal Code.
In 2018, Parliament agreed that copper should be deregulated and instructed the Commerce Commission to create a code that would allow Chorus to withdraw copper services in fibre areas.
The switch-off comes as the ultra-fast broadband fibre rollout continues to track ahead of schedule. Eighty-seven per cent of New Zealanders will be able to access fibre by the end of the year, enabling Chorus to encourage customers to migrate off copper in areas where the uptake of fibre is already high. Voice-only services continue to be available for those who want them; there is no loss of service with just the underlying technology changing.
Commenting on the technology upgrade, Chorus’ CEO, JB Rousselot, said, "We are proud to provide a world-class fibre network for New Zealanders and want to encourage those who remain on copper to contact their provider and make the change.
"In areas where fibre is readily available, we believe it offers the best connectivity option, with the least carbon emissions. However, we're 100 per cent committed to maintaining the copper network in locations where fibre is not currently available.
"It is important to note that this is not a mass switch-off of copper, but a continual transition to improved technology as and where it becomes available. Our priority is to keep New Zealanders connected with a fixed line, without interruption, no matter what the technology option they choose."
Chorus' copper switch-off will only occur in areas where fibre is available. In 2021, the Code was trialled with less than one per cent of the half-million customers using the technology. As outlined in the Code, Chorus kept affected customers fully informed and gave them information on what options were available. In 2022, Chorus plans to send copper withdrawal notices to a further 13,500 customers or about three per cent of its copper base.
"For more than a century, copper lines have played a crucial role in telecommunications in New Zealand – supporting landline calls and, more recently, allowing us to connect to the internet. Copper continues to deliver a reliable service," said Rousselot.
"But with new technology and data consumption rising exponentially, fibre is how we use the internet now. It's important that those who can access our future-proofed fibre network know that they can connect and do so if they wish."
Demand for reliable, high-capacity fibre broadband continues to grow. In Chorus’ completed fibre areas 67 per cent of Kiwi households have already connected to fibre; there were 47,000 new fibre connections in the first half of the fiscal year. More than 23 per cent of fibre customers now opt for a gigabit connection, recognising that flexible working, online learning, and streaming video services mean that a single user's requirement no longer determines broadband needs.
Chorus has kept customers migrating off these first copper cabinets informed using the process outlined by the Commerce Commission. This process allows plenty of time to choose what alternative technology will best suit their needs.