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BT fires up 21CN

The UK’s incumbent carrier BT said Tuesday that it has started transferring the first customer lines over to its next generation 21st Century Network (21CN).

BT has started to move customers in the village of Wick, near Cardiff, as part of the first phase of the national roll out of the 21CN.

All work will be carried out at BT’s telephone exchanges, with no house visits required. The first stage of the new network will be delivered in three phases. Phase one, to run from November until March 2007, will see the upgrade of voice services to some 10 per cent of customer lines in Cardiff and the surrounding area. Phase two, from April to mid-May 2007, will deliver a further 10 per cent of upgraded lines.

21CN will allow the introduction of new voice, data, broadband and multimedia services and will enable them to be delivered quicker and cheaper than before, including planned broadband speeds of up to 24Mbps.

By the summer of 2007, BT expects to have upgraded all 350,000 customer lines. 90,000 of these lines also support broadband and ISDN2 and ISDN30 services. Private circuit-based services, which typically support business-critical corporate applications, will not be migrated on to the new network until much later in the programme.

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale and BT board sponsor for the 21CN programme said, “A network transformation on this scale has not been attempted anywhere else in the world – it’s happening now in South Wales, and the rest of the UK will follow over the next few years.”

Mike Cansfield, analyst with Ovum, said that for BT to complete the rollout in south Wales and then across the rest of the UK by 2011 “is an aggressive timescale” that will require all of BT’s resources, those of its suppliers, and the rest of the industry to make it work on the ground.

“There is no certainty this can be achieved, although in fairness to the Consult21 collaboration forum co-operation has been the watchword so far. And then there is the considerable challenge for BT and the rest of the industry of how to exploit this NGN, which is a question that is largely unanswered at the moment,” he said.

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