More than 100 consumers in the U.K. village of Wick are among the first customers to be connected to BT Group's next-generation telecommunications network, which went live Tuesday.
The BT 21st Century Network, dubbed 21CN, is one of the most ambitious network overhauls of its kind in the world. Instead of using traditional circuit-switched systems to transport phone calls, the U.K. operator is switching its entire networking infrastructure to IP (Internet Protocol) technology.
The move to an all-IP network will allow BT to offer consumers and businesses "triple-play" voice, data and video services over a single ADSL2+ (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband connection, at speeds up to 24Mbps. Among the new services supported by the network are VOIP (voice over IP) and IPTV.
At the same time, the move will allow the operator to lower operating costs. It expects to save around £1 billion ($1.9 billion) per year as a result of the network overhaul. Total cost of the overhaul is estimated at £10 billion.
By mid-2007, BT plans to have switched more than 350,000 lines to its next-generation network, according BT spokeswoman Anna Easton. "We aim to use the first phase as a learning period," she said.
The operator aims to have "the bulk" of the country's 30 million lines converted to IP by the end the decade, Easton said.
As part of its carrier wholesale operations, BT will resell capacity over its new network to around 400 telecommunications service providers in the country.
21CN is an advanced IP broadband network system based on intelligent systems, such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which allows the service provider to control the communications activity to meet a customer's requirements, and MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching), which enables the efficient designation and routing of IP traffic flows.
BT launched its 21CN project around three years ago, according to Easton.