The End of the Copper Network is Near

The End of the Copper Network is Near – Is your Business Ready?

Shane Ross

The national copper network has been serving New Zealand business for almost 140 years, since the arrival of the very first telephones way back in 1881. But even the most faithful and reliable technology is eventually superseded, and with ultra-fast broadband (UFB) being rolled out across the country, copper’s time is almost up.

As of the end of 2019, the UFB fibre network was accessible to more than three-quarters of New Zealand homes and businesses, with more than half of those already making the switch from the old copper infrastructure. Within three years accessibility is expected to rise to 87%, with uptake accelerating even further. This transition to fibre will mean that eventually – and in some areas, soon – the copper network for business will be decommissioned.

When will the copper network cease to function?

It’s important to note here that there isn’t a set date for the switch to be flicked off on the copper network like there was with analogue TV. The network will be decommissioned stage by stage, and only when a long list of criteria is met.

As Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale confirmed in 2018, “the code will require that before the copper service can be withdrawn, an equivalent fibre service is readily available at no additional cost to the consumer. Chorus [the owner of the copper network] will also have to provide information to businesses about available fibre services and give adequate notice of the withdrawal.”

The first stages of decommissioning are expected to happen this year, but those rural and regional areas that are yet to see fibre installed are likely to continue to enjoy access to the copper network for many years to come.

What does the switch mean for businesses?

Safe in the knowledge that you’ll be given plenty of warning about the need to switch, the obvious next question is what does the switch actually mean for your business?

The perks of the new network are obvious – fibre internet speeds are many times higher than the very fastest copper connections, while also being more reliable, both in data transfer and longevity.

But the biggest change will be in voice calls, with the switch from copper to fibre necessitating a subsequent switch from traditional landline phone systems to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems.

What is VoIP, and why is it better?

VoIP digitises your business telephony, giving you greater control, better call clarity and higher call capacity, and all at an often lower cost. The perks of VoIP over a traditional landline system are many and varied, but include:

  • A single network: VoIP uses your data network, removing the need to have a separate connection for your phone system.
  • Ultimate scalability: Instantly add more connections, and only pay for what you use with per-user pricing structures.
  • Clever features: Intuitive software allows you to easily utilise and control a number of smart features, including interactive voice response, call handling, waiting and forwarding, hold music, caller ID and more.
  • Lower cost: As long as your business has IP-enabled phones and an internet connection, you’ve got all the hardware you need for a VoIP system. And your choice of bundled packages or per user rates can see you seriously saving on call costs.

Far from being a setback to your business, the decommissioning of New Zealand’s copper network is instead a fantastic opportunity to improve the way you do business. There will come a time when you’re obliged to make the switch from copper to fibre, but any business who is looking to stay ahead of their competitors will be looking to shift over long before the tipping point.

It’s understandable that many are feeling sentimental about the copper network – it’s been connecting New Zealanders for almost a century and a half, after all. But fibre is better technology in every measurable respect, so it’s important to not let those rose coloured glasses cloud your judgement.

Why not make the switch today?

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