Yorkshire firms need to be ready for the copper-switch-off: Alex Grant

Many of us will have noticed the exponential roll-out of fibre broadband, whether that be in a positive sense through much improved internet speeds, or through work teams digging up the local roads.

This technology has been a massive enabler for business in many ways. Whether that has been improving internet speeds in city centres to the degree that they are unrecognisable from just a few years ago or allowing rural businesses to be truly digitally enabled and fit for the 21st century.

So whilst few will mourn the final switch-off of the UK’s antiquated copper network, slated for 2025, there are hidden risks that most don’t know about. So much so in fact, that rumours have started to spread that Government is considering delaying the switch by up to two years.

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What are the issues and why are Yorkshire businesses exposed? Well traditionally, the fastest fibre broadband has been rolled out in our centres of population first. That stands to reason – it’s where it’s most needed. But this has resulted in ‘left behind’ communities, struggling away on outdated tech.

Alex Grant shares his expert insightAlex Grant shares his expert insight
Alex Grant shares his expert insight

Yorkshire is a vast county, with a high proportion of businesses engaged in rural activities, such as agriculture or tourism. Areas where these businesses prevail are more exposed and more likely to be in for a shock, when it comes to the big switch-off.

Whilst most services we use are now internet based – and fibre has been the key enabler for that – there are some that still reply on old copper wires. The big risk is that these services tend to be easily forgotten. They sit quietly in the background and don’t do anything until they’re needed.

For example, some security alarms still rely on the old network. Without taking action businesses could find themselves at best exposed and at worst, crippled. Overnight, businesses could see insurance policies invalidated and find themselves at a higher risk of crime or another serious incident.

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Fire alarms too are an area for concern. Some large manufacturers or warehouses haven’t updated their systems in decades. They carry out their usual safety drills and all appears to be working fine. But some of these systems could become redundant at the flick of a switch.

In terms of the copper network switch-off, care alarms have been the primary issue that has made the headlines. It is estimated that almost two million people in the UK rely on some form of personal alarm, and whilst the copper network didn’t require an electricity supply, fibre solutions do. It’s no exaggeration to say that maintaining this critical infrastructure and being attuned to the threat is a matter of life and death.

But the implications for business go much wider than the healthcare setting. It is the hidden challenges that are often the hardest to address, and there is a general sense within the telecoms industry that businesses are currently unprepared.

The good news is that there have been rumours circulating that the ‘switch’ could be delayed by up to two years. But even if that happens this shouldn’t just be seen as an opportunity to kick the can down the road, business users need to take action now.

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Technology is the enabler here, not the threat. By being better connected – right across your business, you’re building in resilience and ensuring you’re ready for the switch.

Alex Grant is a Director at 24 Seven Cloud

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