Wholesale telecommunications network provider Chorus will begin switching off fixed-line copper connections on Wednesday March 16 as it pushes New Zealanders to its faster fibre services.

Despite indicating in February 2021 the switch-off would begin in September 2021, covid-19 lockdowns delayed the process until now.

Copper is the traditional technology that powers landline phones and older fixed-line internet connections. Chorus is only switching off copper cabinets in areas where people can move to a fibre connection. 

Some 28 cabinets in total will be switched off this month, of which 17 are already empty. There are 14 active connections across the remaining 11 of eight broadband connections and six phone connections.

Chorus said five of the 14 copper connections are customers actively moving to fibre services, but the other nine have not taken action to move. 

The small numbers show how granular the switch-off effort can become. Though New Zealanders have in general embraced newer fibre services, some will remain reluctant to change. 

The Commerce Commission finalised the copper withdrawal code (CWC) in December 2020 to ensure people were given adequate notice. Chorus informed affected customers about the switch off from March 1, 2021 and gave a final withdrawal notice on or before March 2, 2022. 

Well laid plans

The CWC originally said Chorus could stop supplying copper services in affected areas from September 2021.

“We paused the programme during a couple of the lockdowns last year, meaning that the process ran for nearly a year, six months more than the timeline within the copper withdrawal code,” Chorus external communications manager Steve Pettigrew told BusinessDesk.

“We sent those affected two additional updates about this delay.

“During 2022, 13,500 customers will be somewhere in the process of copper withdrawal.”

He said there are currently about 405,000 customers on Chorus’ copper network. 

“In areas where fibre is readily available, we believe it offers the best connectivity option, with the least carbon emissions,” said Chorus chief executive JB Rousselot.

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

This was not a "mass switch-off of copper", but a continual transition to the new technology as it becomes available.

Chorus says in areas where its fixed line fibre network build is complete, 67% of households are connected to fibre. 

You can view the affected copper withdrawal areas here