Expert Witness – 21st Century Broadband

Expert Witness – 21st Century Broadband

Adrian Sunderland, CTO Griffin Internet

21CN is the acronym that BT uses to describe their IP-based Next Generation Network (NGN). BT first announced their vision of 21CN in 2004, and when you consider the size and complexity of the legacy BT network, work has been progressing at an impressive pace. The first PSTN customers were migrated onto 21CN for testing in November 2006 with a handful of broadband customers on 21CN during the first half of 2007.

All the trials undertaken so far have been closed technical trials of 20CN services running over the new 21CN network and have been fairly low key. That will change over the next few months as various wholesale ISPs ready themselves and their customers for January 2008 when the first new 21CN broadband services will be available for public trial for the first time.

In this Expert Witness we look at some of the important facts and myths surrounding 21CN that apply to the reseller community.


21CN broadband is just BT’s response to cheap LLU residential ADSL offerings

MYTH – Firstly, early indications from BT are that any company wishing to work directly with 21CN will need to invest significantly in new network and software development, so do not assume this is just about cheaper product. Prices to endusers, particularly residential, may have reduced over the last 24 months but BT has kept their prices quite high. In fact for most ISPs the introduction of MAX products has increased average usage and therefore cost on their network. Secondly, most of the new features offered by 21CN are far more business than residential orientated and improve the broadband SLA to match and often exceed that of ISDN, see below:

• Downstream line speeds of up to 24Mbit/s in nearly all of BT’s 6000 exchanges.

• Support for end-to-end QoS making it possible to guarantee bandwidth & contention.

• Product roadmap that includes multicast support, 1 day provides, 5-hour guaranteed fix and channel bonding.


I need more IP skills in my business to take advantage of 21CN products and services.

FACT – Selling new 21CN-based voice and data services will require a good understanding of IP. Indeed this is why Systems Integrators are gearing themselves up to start selling voice services like never before. The alternative to training or hiring IP skills into your organisation is to work with a technically competent supplier that can offer a managed 21CN service and is prepared to support your sales effort with pre and post-sales expertise.


21CN will be available throughout the country in 2008

MYTH – You will hear a lot about 21CN broadband leading up to the public trials in January 2008 and the launch in April 2008 and you would be forgiven for thinking it will be available everywhere. This is not the case though as each exchange needs to be upgraded with the 21CN equipment. In fact 50% of the country will be able to get 21CN broadband by the end of 2008, 65% by the end of 2009 with the entire 21CN rollout not expected to be completed until 2011. This will undoubtedly mean that resellers will have to support a number of different broadband offerings depending on the geography of their customers.


21CN will mean the end of the road for many of the LLU operators

MYTH – In some ways BT has been left behind by some of the LLU-based services that have been launched in the last 12 months, particularly when looking at downstream bandwidth, and it is true that 21CN broadband goes some of the way to redress the balance, however it is unlikely that any single network provider will have the right solution for all of your customers. A strategy that involves reselling the services of a number of network providers makes sense now and will continue to make sense when the 21CN-based services emerge from BT.

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