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Copper network on its last legs

With more than 10,000 properties in Wairarapa having switched to fibre over the past 10 years, copper landline phones will soon be a thing of the past.

However, a Chorus spokesperson has said that the retirement of the copper network won’t be a “mass switch-off” and that the withdrawal of this service will be focused on areas where fibre is available.

Chorus data states that 10,156 out of 13,232 Wairarapa properties – or 76 per cent – have been converted to fibre, and copper lines are being phased out.

“The copper network doesn’t provide the capacity, speed and reliability they want – which is why we’re seeing a dramatic decline in connections,” the spokesperson said.

“Our fibre build programme to date has covered the likes of Masterton, Martinborough, Featherston, Greytown, and Carterton, and we want to keep going and take fibre as far as is practically possible.”

At the end of March this year, Masterton had 7408 properties connected to fibre out of a possible 9,830 addresses [a 75 per cent uptake], while in Carterton there are 1996 out of 2324 [86 per cent], and there are 752 out of 1078 [70 per cent] Martinborough.

“Over half of rural New Zealand now gets their connectivity on a technology that isn’t copper,” the spokesperson said.

The national copper network owner, Chorus, has stated it will continue to offer landline and broadband services in rural areas where fibre is “unavailable” or “planned” but intends to “phase out the copper network within the next decade”.

“Where fibre isn’t available, we’re confident in the capabilities of alternative technologies such as satellite and fixed wireless to ensure reliable connectivity is maintained in more far-off, rural areas,” a Chorus spokesperson said.

“We select the copper network to withdraw where it makes sense, but always where fibre is available to the end user, and ample notice is provided.”

The spokesperson said 55,000 copper connections remain, and about 21,000 of these connections have been notified that copper services will be withdrawn within six months.

“Telco providers such as One NZ have stopped selling copper services,” the spokesperson noted.

Spark, in particular, has shut down a service called the Public Switched Telephone Network [PSTN], which uses the Chorus copper network fibre and reaches about 1.5 million addresses across New Zealand.

Other Telco providers exiting from the copper network included One and 2degrees.

One NZ chief technology officer Tony Baird said its copper connections are being decommissioned sometime next year due to a steady decline in user demand.

“We’ve got 2.4 million mobile devices out there,” he said, more than one per household, and landlines offer a static service that people are shifting away from.

Commerce Commission figures state that there were about 573,000 landline service connections in New Zealand, most of which use the Voice Over Internet Protocol with traditional handsets running through fibre.

The Commerce Commission recently criticised the copper shutdown because fibre requires a power supply to function, unlike its older counterpart, which works during power cuts.

As a result, the commission is taking One NZ to court for an alleged breach of the 111 Contact Code that came into effect in February 2021 as consumers moved away from copper landline connections.

The code requires telecommunications providers to supply vulnerable consumers with a device that enables them to make emergency calls during a power cut, something the commission alleges One NZ has not done.

This story has been updated. Chorus initially said “Telco providers such as Spark have stopped selling copper services”, but later clarified that the sentence should be “Telco providers such as One NZ have stopped selling copper services”.

2 COMMENTS

  1. We had nothing but trouble with Voice Over Internet, and switched BACK to copper for landline last year. Fibre is not available in our area and so I hope they do not phase out copper while there is not a viable (by which I mean reliable) alternative. When and if they get fibre to my door, I’ll switch, but until that happens you will have to drag me kicking and screaming back to VOIP.

  2. Another reason why rural rate payers get a bad deal? Urban rate payers have a choose between fiber or a technology that is satellite or wireless 🤔 Rural rate payers DON’T

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