First Customers go live on BT’s 21st Century Network

BT made communications history yesterday with the transfer of the first customer lines to its 21st Century Network (21CN), the world’s most advanced next generation network. As planned, BT has started to move customers in the village of Wick, near Cardiff, to the next generation infrastructure. The upgrade, which took place without the need for an engineer visit, new telephone, or a new telephone number, is part of the first phase of the national roll-out of 21CN.

21CN will bring a range of benefits to businesses and consumers over years to come. New voice, data, broadband and multimedia services will be delivered quicker and cheaper than before, including faster broadband. 21CN will also give customers more control over the way they use their services.

The migration of the first customers to 21CN is a landmark event in BT’s next generation network programme. To reach this important milestone BT has re-built around ten per cent of the UK’s core national communications infrastructure, installed 21CN equipment at over 100 sites across the UK, and laid more than 2,300 kilometres of new fibre optic cable in South Wales. BT has also invested more than 1,500 man years in developing new IT systems to support the new network.

Reaching this major milestone has also been the result of pan-industry collaboration through Consult21, a forum which provides a regular open platform for all communications providers to understand and influence BT’s plans for 21CN. This includes the details of the roll-out programme, as it affects hundreds of communications providers across the UK.

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale and BT board sponsor for the 21CN programme said, “Today marks a symbolic and momentous occasion for BT, the communications industry and for the UK as 21CN, over three years in the making, starts to become real for customers. Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call 130 years ago – we are also making history with the first live UK customer calls using a carrier class, all IP network. Years of research and development, network build and design, rigorous trials and testing, together with open collaboration with the communications industry have culminated in this historic moment. 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.”

Following the first phase of customer migrations in Wick, customers in Cardiff, Bridgend and the Pontypridd area will be the next to have their voice and broadband services transferred to 21CN. By the end of summer 2007, around 350,000 customer lines in South Wales are expected to have been migrated to the new infrastructure.

When complete, 21CN will deliver existing and new converged communications services to homes and businesses nationwide. BT believes that the underlying network and the new services it will create, including the first nationwide wholesale broadband service offering planned speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s, will make converged communications faster, more efficient and more cost effective than ever before.

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