BT demands open standards in telecoms

The UK's incumbent telco claims to be embracing open standards and getting access to vendor source code as part of its push to IP-enable its network

Telecommunications equipment makers and software providers have handed over details of their source code as part of the process of being considered for BT's forthcoming IP-based network.

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale, told the 21st Century Communications World Forum on Monday that the telco wants to destroy the telecoms sector's culture of closed proprietary systems in favour of the "plug-and-play" ways of the IT world.

Reynolds warned an audience of telecoms vendors that they would have no place in its 21st Century Network (21CN) unless they could provide conclusive evidence their equipment would work alongside that of their rivals. "For BT, our aim is to create a vendor-independent network based on interoperability and open standards." He added that BT had already been given access to source code, and told the London conference: "This is a radical change. If we get this right, our industry will work together to create an open environment, breaking the closed world of the past."

Reynolds did, however, acknowledge that as a former state-run monopoly, BT is as culpable as any telecoms firm for the closed proprietary systems of previous decades.

"Our world has been dominated too long by big telcos working with vendors selling proprietary systems. We cannot afford to let this continue," Reynolds said.

BT's 21CN project represents a massive upgrading of its infrastructure across the UK, transforming it into an IP-based network. It is the first major European telco to make such a move, and many vendors are desperate to win BT's endorsement for their IP-based hardware or software.

But the project is not without controversy. Communications regulator Ofcom is investigating it, amid concerns that 21CN could make BT even more dominant in the UK market.

There is also speculation that BT might be moving too quickly.

Tom Rowbotham, venture partner at venture capitalist firm Vesbridge Ventures and a former director of technology for BT, said back in October 2004 that 21CN was a very difficult challenge, and that BT could have problems integrating kit from different suppliers.