BT: Network overhaul will invigorate UK IT

The telco claims its 21st Century Network plan will boost business communications but analysts argue the change will be evolutionary not revolutionary

BT's evolving 21st Century Network (21CN) project will transform the way businesses and individuals in the UK live and work, the telco claimed on Thursday.

Speaking after BT announced its eight preferred suppliers for 21CN, Matt Beal, director of 21st Century Network implementation and strategy, said that the new IP-based network would underpin a move away from BT's telecoms past to an IT services future.

"21CN will underpin new developments in IT and in mobility," said Beal, adding that BT's converged mobile device, called Bluephone, would be a key application for the upgraded network.

21CN will replace a clutch of legacy circuit-switched networks with a single Internet Protocol-based one. Beal explained that it will allow users to customise their Internet connection to a level impossible today, and deliver converged voice, video and data services.

It will take BT several years to implement the 21CN project, but Beal believes that IT professionals can already draw lessons from it.

"IT managers today should look at 21CN, and see it's very clear that we are moving fast towards an IP-centric world," said Beal.

Analysts, though, caution that companies may have doubts about how 21CN will affect them.

"If you take the financial sector, for example, companies there will like their ATM connections and their leased lines. They may not want to be forced onto IP-based services so quickly, just because it's in BT's interests," said Michael Philpott, senior analyst at Ovum.

IT managers will also be reluctant to migrate to new systems unless it fits into their own hardware-refresh cycle, Philpott added.

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