BT to put 'brains' on the edge of new network

BT has given a tantalising glimpse of the type of new services that it will be able to offer as part of its 21st Century Network project

BT is implementing a major upgrade of its telecommunications infrastructure to create a more advanced IP-based network using high-capacity routers that will support protocols such as MPLS (multiprotocol label switching).

Full details of the 21st Century Network project will be released on Wednesday, but on Tuesday one of one of BT's senior staff gave a taste of what users can look forward to.

"We expect to build a network that puts the brains on the edge of the network, not the centre," Greg Mook, director of regulatory affairs at BT Wholesale, told a round-table discussion organised by Telefonica UK.

Mook said BT's 21st Century Network would allow people to be contacted directly by name, rather than "by calling a phone in a hallway"; that it would be open to various devices, including mobile phones; and that it would be location-independent.

This means end-users would be able to keep the same logical network ID, even when they are using a range of different access methods to connect from physically different locations.

At this stage it isn't clear how quickly the 21st Century Network will be rolled out, and whether it will cover rural as well as metropolitan areas.

Internet service providers hope that the network upgrade could cut down on the amount of disruption suffered by customers.

"Obviously reliability of dial-up and broadband services is a key area of concern for our customers -- any network upgrade would ideally reduce the number of disconnects and outages. Where these cannot be prevented, faster notification to ISPs so they can inform their customers would be extremely beneficial," said Jonathan Lambeth, director of communications at AOL UK.