The fate of legacy copper network is a key element in the fibre investment case. What is at stake is the planning of copper extension as it does not make sense (for financial and environmental reasons) to keep the legacy copper network alive and to run a fibre network in parallel. But for this, the right conditions need to be created.
Copper is already being decommissioned in a few Member States, but progress towards copper switch-off is very fragmented in Europe. Some countries are very advanced with operators and regulators following a clear transition strategy while others are still lagging behind.
There are multiple elements explaining that progress is still slow such as the reluctance of former incumbent operators to invest in fibre access networks, the unwillingness of access seekers to migrate or a lack of consumer awareness of the benefits of fibre. Regulatory factors including long notice periods for legacy network operators to switch off copper and associated wholesaling requirements for the closure of copper exchanges may have further contributed to delays.
The FTTH Council Europe is not advocating for a deadline by which copper should be decommissioned but rather for a single market strategy at the level of the European Union which would highlight the challenges and potential solutions to accelerate the migration process and the ultimate switch-off of copper.
We are in a period of technology change and the way the process of copper switch-off is managed will be crucial in ensuring that no citizen is left behind and for this, regulatory hurdles which prevent Europe from becoming a full fibre continent should be lifted by an action at European level.