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Caution urged over copper broadband switch-off

There are calls for careful planning around the switch-off of Ireland’s old copper broadband network amid warnings that many devices are still reliant on the system.

Broadband network operator SIRO has conducted an analysis which shows that house and security alarms, medical and security monitors, lifts, landline and emergency phones, car park barriers and retail point of sale terminals could all be impacted by the switch-off process.

In the UK, BT recently delayed plans to force customers to switch from physical copper-based landlines to internet-based services.

The UK switch-off was paused at the end of last year after several incidents where telecare devices used by older people stopped working.

At end of 2023, the communications regulator, ComReg, approved the conditions for Ireland’s copper switch-off.

The European Commission has marked 2030 as its preferred deadline by which all copper networks across the EU would switch-off.

SIRO has called for an integrated, joined-up approach to the process.

“The process of transitioning away from copper broadband will take place over several years but it will impact hundreds of thousands of householders and businesses,” said SIRO Chief Commercial Officer, Ronan Whelan.

“As a result, it’s vital we start preparing for it now, particularly to ensure minimal end user disruption,” he added.

“A Stakeholder Taskforce is needed to quantify the scale of the transition; plan what needs to happen; and, to implement and publicly communicate these changes in an ordered and coordinated way to those impacted,” Mr Whelan said.

ComReg said the copper switch-off process will begin with a submission by telecom company eir of a switch-off proposal for approval.

“ComReg requires any transition to modern networks to be implemented in a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner,” a ComReg spokesperson said.

“ComReg looks forward to eir’s switch-off proposal, which it can submit whenever it is ready to do so, we have not received any indicative timelines from them as yet,” the regulator said.

A spokesperson for eir said the transition from copper to fibre in Ireland is still some years off and will be done in a carefully planned way.

“The copper switch-off is contingent on the full availability of Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH), including rural areas and it also must already have been taken up by the large majority of customers before it can happen,” eir said.

“Even though it is some years away, we understand the concerns surrounding the potential impact on older or vulnerable customers who rely on the copper network today,” they added.

“That is why eir is already working through a rigorous preparation process, including stakeholder engagement to ensure a smooth transition in the years ahead,” the company said.

Eir said that the transition will be managed through a phased approach, developed with ComReg and industry stakeholders.

“Customers will receive at least 12-18 months’ notice before any changes, with special consideration for those relying on essential services like health alarms and security systems,” an eir spokesperson said.

Article Source – Caution urged over copper broadband switch-off – RTE

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