British Telecoms (BT) could be sitting on billions of pounds worth of copper stretching across a 75-mile expanse.
The scrap value of BT’s installed copper network was once worth between £2.5billion and £5billion, according to a report in the Guardian.
That was back in 2011 but today, when factoring in inflation, the assets would have a significantly higher value.
Will Digby, connectivity product manager of RM Technology, told Express.co.uk: “As with any commodity, the price of the material is subject to market forces.
“Comparing September 2011 to September 2023 there has been a 10 to 15 percent increase in market price therefore applying this increase to the figures previously outlined from BT could be an appropriate estimation.”
Copper networks refer to the copper-based telephone wiring found in homes and through wireline phone lines. According to Actiontec, the networks are created with bulky copper wires that use electrons for data transmission.
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But as the internet and technology rapidly evolve, copper networks are quickly being replaced by faster fibre optic technology, rendering the old and clunky billion-pound assets largely unfit for their initial purpose.
Mr Digby said: “Copper wire has been the backbone of UK telecommunications for decades, but that is gradually coming to an end.
“Since the start of September 2023, buying or adding to existing analogue services is no longer possible, as the analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – which relies on copper cable – will be permanently switched off.
“Everyone will have to transition their broadband and phone services to a fully digital network that routes calls over the internet. These systems are typically called voice over internet protocol, or VoIP.”
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Mr Digby added: “This switch off is long overdue. Despite its clear benefits, other countries such as Germany, Japan, and Sweden are way ahead of the UK in terms of the transition.”
So what exactly is BT going to do with its copper mine?
BT is known to be progressing with switching over from analogue to digital landlines, in addition to their commitment to provide Full Fibre broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026. They have also introduced a new sustainability and recycling program to remove, reuse, and recycle the equipment.
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Writing in a blog post in June 2023, Matt Manning, head of circular economy at BT Group said: “This year alone, the programme will extract over 200 tonnes of copper cable, (equivalent to the weight of over 140 Ford Focus cars), will see over 2,000 tonnes of lead batteries recycled and will generate £4million with these combined activities in addition to recycling and resale of redundant network equipment.”
He added: “Decommissioning equipment on this scale is a huge task, but as digital leaders like BT Group continue to invest in high quality, reliable connections run over environmentally sustainable technologies, it’s vital that we work with companies such as N2S and TXO to reduce waste and preserve valuable natural resources.”
Ultimately, upgrading customers to fibre, withdrawing the copper network and recovering the assets are key enablers for BT’s Openreach to build full fibre at a faster pace and on a larger scale, and trials are said to be in place.
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