Copper cabinets are soon to be a thing of the past for many Kiwis, with Chorus announcing it will switch off its first copper cabinets in mid-March.
The announcement comes as Chorus continues to upgrade New Zealanders to its fibre network and is in line with terms agreed by the government in 2018 to deregulate copper services.
New Zealanders are being encouraged to move off Chorus's copper lines where feasible and can be assured the company will follow the strict processes set out in the Commerce Commission's Copper Withdrawal Code.
Chorus has said that 87% of Kiwis should be able to access fibre by the end of the year, enabling the company to further encourage customers to migrate off copper in areas where the uptake of fibre is already high. They say voice-only services will continue to be available for those who want them, and there is no loss of service with just the underlying technology changing.
In 2021, the Withdrawl Code was trialled with less than 1% of the half-million customers using the wire technology. As outlined in the Code, Chorus kept affected customers fully informed and gave them information on what options were available. In 2022, Chorus plans to send copper withdrawal notices to a further 13,500 customers or about 3% of its copper base.
"In areas where fibre is readily available, we believe it offers the best connectivity option, with the least carbon emissions. However, we're 100% committed to maintaining the copper network in locations where fibre is not currently available," says Chorus' CEO, JB Rousselot.
"It is important to note that this is not a mass switch-off of copper, but a continual transition to improved technology as and where it becomes available. Our priority is to keep New Zealanders connected with a fixed line, without interruption, no matter what the technology option they choose."
As the demand for reliable, high-capacity fibre broadband continues to grow, Rousselot believes the switching of technology will help create better solutions for customers all across Aotearoa. 67% of Kiwi households have already connected to fibre, and there were 47,000 new fibre connections in the first half of the fiscal year.
Chorus also found that more than 23% of fibre customers now opt for a gigabit connection. This shows flexible working, online learning, and streaming video services, meaning a single user's requirement no longer determines broadband needs.
"For more than a century, copper lines have played a crucial role in telecommunications in New Zealand – supporting landline calls and, more recently, allowing us to connect to the internet. Copper continues to deliver a reliable service," says Rousselot.
"But with new technology and data consumption rising exponentially, fibre is how we use the internet now. It's important that those who can access our future-proofed fibre network know that they can connect and do so if they wish."
He encourages eligible customers to make the move and assures a smooth transition and paramount service.
"We are proud to provide a world-class fibre network for New Zealanders and want to encourage those who remain on copper to contact their provider and make the change. If you live or work in a location where fibre is available and today use a copper-based phone and broadband service, you may want to get ahead of the changes coming by making a move to fibre or an alternative technology."