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The transition from copper to fibre & the gold mine that awaits

The telecom network industry is witnessing a transformative shift from traditional copper-based infrastructure to modern digital networks. As the technology advances and demand for faster, more reliable connectivity grows, exciting changes are underway – the streets that were once paved with copper are becoming gold for the operators’ bottom line!

In this blog, we’ll delve into the importance of modernising outdated technology, the different methods of copper extraction and the pivotal role that asset recovery partnerships play in shaping a sustainable future.

Modernising networks with the transition from copper to fibre

The Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN), powered by copper cables, has been the backbone of telecommunications around the world for many years, providing not only voice communication but also supporting various essential services including elevators, alarms, security systems and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) internet access.

While copper networks have served us well, advancements in technology and the push toward digital transformation are leading to the gradual replacement of copper with more modern alternatives. For example, digital networks, such as fibre optic and IP-based systems, can support 5G high-speed data transfer, enabling the seamless transmission of multimedia content and satisfying the evolving needs of consumers and businesses.

Transitioning from copper to fibre, not only enables telecom companies to meet the growing demand for data-intensive applications but it also reduces operational costs and fosters a more interconnected and future-ready telecommunications industry.

Here’s a selection of telecom exchanges housing PSTN

The gradual shutdown of PSTN

As this global transition gets underway, it’s crucial to recognise that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Here’s a country-by-country overview of some of the formal shutdown plans that’ve been announced by many regions with the longest-established networks.

  • United Kingdom: BT Group, the main telecom provider in the UK, plans to switch off the PSTN by 2025, transitioning to a fully digital and IP-based network known as All-IP. As part of BT’s Exchange Clearance Operation (ECO), our team is expecting to extract over 200 tonnes of copper cable in 2023 as we move ageing, legacy equipment from telephone exchanges into the circular economy. We’re proud to be helping their circular network sustainability drive – you can find out more about TXO’s extended partnership with the BT Group here.
  • Australia: The Australian government aims to migrate all voice services to IP networks by 2025 as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.
  • New Zealand: Telecom providers in New Zealand have been actively transitioning from the PSTN to digital networks, although there isn’t a specific nationwide switch-off date.
1000’s of telecom exchanges are set to be decommissioned in the next 5 years

Strategic planning for a seamless PSTN phase-out

Each region and network operator faces unique challenges and opportunities before embracing the end of PSTN. A successful phase-out requires thoughtful planning, taking into account factors such as regulatory frameworks, technology readiness, customer impact, and financial considerations. Some might be ready to adopt modern alternatives, while others might need more time and support.

Here at TXO, our mission is to empower you to make the most of your existing technology. By promoting practices like reusing, selling, and recycling, we extend equipment life cycles and reduce electronic waste to contribute to a greener and more sustainable future. No matter where you are in the world, or whatever phase your PSTN network is in, our dedicated team is ready to provide the support you need.

How the copper extraction process works

Extracting telecom equipment running on copper technology and recovering copper cables is a complex process that can vary depending on the location and services involved. But don’t worry, our specialised team knows their stuff! We’ve got deep knowledge of the equipment, regulations, and safety procedures and a careful approach to make sure your service stays uninterrupted during the process.

In exchanges or central offices, meticulous planning and coordination are essential to prevent disruptions, given their crucial role as communication hubs for businesses and communities.

Sometimes, PSTN equipment is all mixed up with modern technology, and that’s where our expertise comes into play. We know exactly what to turn off and de-install, ensuring everything goes exactly to plan. What’s more, with TXO’s new app (called i-SITE), pinpointing the exact assets for de-installation is made even easier, giving you complete control.

On the other hand, extracting equipment from roadside cabinets and distribution points poses its own challenges, as they are more exposed to external factors like weather and physical damage which calls for additional precautions.

Oh, and get this – some of our clients ask us to provide PSTN service continuation for their customers who haven’t migrated yet. It’s a big responsibility, but we take the right decisions to keep everything running smoothly for everyone involved.

Efficiently extracting copper cables involves identifying and disconnecting each cable while maintaining network integrity. Followed by responsible recycling and reuse practices.

But we’re not just experts in extracting telecom equipment and recovering copper cables; we go the extra mile! If you need any other assets repurposed while we’re onsite, just say the word. Our team is here to lend a hand and make things easier for you.

Leading the way in telecom equipment refurbishment & reuse

The crucial role of asset recovery in the PSTN shutdown

The shutdown of the PSTN brings a wave of revenue generation opportunities for operators. To maximise returns during the transition, success hinges on embracing the shift and collaborating with an expert asset recovery specialist. By running a highly efficient asset recovery campaign, telecom companies like yours can unlock the full potential of their outdated infrastructure, optimising value extraction and ensuring a seamless transition to modern digital networks.

Here’s an explanation of how asset recovery relates to the PSTN shutdown:

  • Identifying and evaluating assets: During the PSTN shutdown, it’s important to identify and assess existing assets like copper cables and switching equipment. Thorough evaluation determines the potential for asset recovery, aiding decision-making.
  • Recovering value: Capitalise on the PSTN shutdown by refurbishing, reselling, or recycling your assets. Recovered value can be reinvested in upgrading your network infrastructure, deploying fibre optic cables, or spent on any of our amazing services.
  • Minimising electronic waste: Responsible handling of outdated PSTN equipment is crucial to minimise electronic waste. Our asset recovery solutions provide sustainable results, reducing landfill waste and lessening environmental impact.
  • Trust us to handle your projects with care: We’re leading experts in telecom network asset recovery. We’ll identify exactly what to disable and work to strict SLAs – providing dedicated account management, local language support, and fast response times.
  • Enhanced reporting support tailored just for you:
      • Power savings from compaction
      • Power savings from the work undertaken by TXO
      • Cost savings from the power reduction
      • Cost savings from the release of footprint
      • Cost saving from sites closed/handed back to landlord
      • Ongoing savings across cost and power for the remainder of the project
      • Revenue generation returns to-date

Supporting your network every step of the way

Change can bring opportunities for progress, and we’re here to support you throughout this journey. As the PSTN gradually shuts down and digital networks take over, our goal is to provide you with the expertise and resources you need to power down your legacy systems without a hitch and move forward with confidence.

Our comprehensive range of services includes:

  • Spares supply, where we can provide you with the necessary equipment and components to support your network while you undergo the transformation, reducing downtime and optimising network performance.
  • Additionally, we offer advanced testing solutions to ensure the reliability and functionality of the equipment in your network.
  • Our expertise in asset recovery enables us to help you modernise your telecom network responsibly, by extending the lifetime of your outdated equipment and recovering maximum residual value along the way.

Let us partner with you to achieve a smooth and successful evolution of your telecom infrastructure.

About the author

David Evans

Head of Asset Recovery & Services

David joined us in 2014 as a Services Sales Manager, managing the UK & APAC region before being promoted to Head of the division in 2019. David is responsible for the group services sales stream and asset recovery business unit, furthering our commitment to sustainability and the circular economy.