Copper line services are about to change. Here’s everything UK developers need to know.


11 / 24 / 2021


copper lines

Birmingham. City of concrete, birthplace of Cadbury’s Chocolate, and host of the first in-person BT Openreach Residential Developer Forum since lockdown…

Having attended the Forum alongside the UK’s top 34 residential property developers, plus smaller developers and industry bodies, I was reliably informed of a significant change coming to the industry, a change we all need to prepare for: the announcement that Openreach will no longer be accepting orders for copper line services (in the UK).

Now, this might seem like a relatively small announcement, but it’s actually really rather major and the following will explore why.

What are copper line services?

Copper lines are the traditional telephone network lines that have connected buildings to the local telephone exchange for over 100 years. They were originally used for voice calls but, since around the 1990s, they have also been used for internet connections, particularly for residential properties (i.e. homes).

Fiber cables have been replacing copper cables in the Openreach network for many years, as fiber allows much faster internet connection speeds. In commercial buildings (ie: offices), this fiber connects directly to the building. In residential buildings, the fiber can either connect directly to the building, or to a street cabinet nearby, with the local connection to the building still being a copper line.

Why will Openreach no longer be accepting orders from copper line services? And, why does this change have such a great impact?

Sometime ago, Openreach announced that it intended to shut down its copper telephone line network and migrate all existing copper lines to fiber. Most new build residential properties are now connected by a fiber line, either from Openreach or other infrastructure service providers.

However, lift lines and alarm signalling lines have continued to be connected to the Openreach copper telephone network. But, this has now changed, as Openreach announced at the Forum that from 15th November 2021, Openreach will no longer be accepting new orders for copper lift lines and alarm signalling lines.

For landlords and property developers, this means that (on new developments and refurbishments) lift car intercoms will need to operate over the Openreach fiber network. Alarm signalling will also need to operate over the Openreach fiber network, or alternatively via the Landlord LAN data network or wirelessly over the 4G mobile network.

How can the real estate industry best-prepare for this change? And, what practical measures need to be put in place to ease the process?

New build commercial and residential apartment developments will be particularly impacted by this change. Developers and landlords should ensure that their design teams are aware of this change. Construction tender and contract documentation should state that lift lines should be fiber and the design drawings must show fiber lift line connections.

Where the building’s lifts are procured under a separate contract directly with the lift manufacturer, the contract should state that the lift car intercom should use a fiber line connection.

Most lift manufacturers are likely to be unaware of this seemingly small change and so early dialogue with the lift manufacturer on a new development is recommended, to give the manufacturer time to make any modifications necessary to the lift car intercom.

Similarly, for alarm signalling lines, the tender and contract documentation should state a requirement for these to either use the Landlord LAN data network, or a 4G mobile connection where the signal is available and strong enough.

To wrap it all up:

This small change marks another process towards Openreach decommissioning its copper network and moving to fiber infrastructure. If properly planned on new developments, this change should have minimal impact, but if left until the end of the build programme, it could potentially cause significant delays.

Developers must discuss these changes with their design teams at an early stage. It’s imperative that any new building’s design specifies fiber lift lines and either Landlord LAN data network or wireless connectivity for alarm signalling requirements.

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