Chorus to switch off first copper cabinets this week as fibre uptake continues to rise

An illustration of a fibre optic cable installation.
Chorus has been working to ensure no 'at-risk' users are impacted. Photo credit: Getty Images

The first copper cabinets carrying broadband and voice services to New Zealanders will be switched off as early as this week, Chorus has announced.

It follows a trial that started in March 2021, with 28 cabinets and 240 copper services identified as the first to be withdrawn, the company said.

Chorus has spent the year since trying to get those customers to switch to fibre from copper lines while ensuring no 'at risk' customers would have services turned off.

According to the company, there were a total of 14 active copper services from that initial bunch of 28 cabinets still active on March 2 this year, with their providers asked to turn off the services within ten working days, which is no later than March 16.

Five of those 14 are now waiting for fibre to be installed, while the rest have taken no action to move to copper alternatives.

The withdrawal process was set out in the Commerce Commission's Copper Withdrawal Code, created after Parliament agreed the copper infrastructure should be deregulated in 2018.

According to the company, 87 percent of New Zealanders will be able to access fibre by the end of the year, by which time it plans to issue withdrawal notices to a further 13,500 customers.

Customers who don't want internet access but still require voice services will be able to get that, but the technology providing those will change, Chorus said.

Chorus CEO JB Rousselot said the company was proud of its network and wanted to encourage those remaining on copper to make the change to fibre.

"In areas where fibre is readily available, we believe it offers the best connectivity option, with the least carbon emissions," he said.

"However, we're 100 percent committed to maintaining the copper network in locations where fibre is not currently available."

Copper has played a crucial role in telecommunications in New Zealand for over a 100 years now, Rousselot said.

"Copper continues to deliver a reliable service. But with new technology and data consumption rising exponentially, fibre is how we use the internet now," he said.

"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."

The company says demand for fibre continues to grow, with 67 percent of households in areas with access to fibre already connected.

And more than 23 percent of fibre customers now have a gigabit connection, the company said, recognising that streaming video and the increase in working and learning online during the pandemic means a greater demand for bandwidth.