Project Nevis to take BT to new broadband highs?

No need to be PC-centric, says BT boss

No need to be PC-centric, says BT boss

BT is looking to a broadband future that doesn't revolve around the PC.

While mobile and hotspot operators have long talked about broadband over wireless - using technologies such as 3G and Wi-Fi - and some gamers already employ cable and ADSL connections for networked Xbox and PlayStation 2 videogames, broadband is still mainly considered a PC bolt-on.

Could that be about to change? In a briefing this week, BT CEO Ben Verwaayen said that "within the next 12 months" there will be devices on the market that make use of ADSL connections, the fruits of an initiative known within the telco as Project Nevis.

Verwaayen stressed that already services such as digital satellite television from broadcaster BSkyB make use of BT connections for interactivity but said this push goes much farther.

A BT spokesman said the telco had been looking into PC-less ADSL for some time and internal trials are currently ongoing. "We're not going to rush anything - we're not going to get something out 'til it works," he added but wouldn't expand on details of the project.

Ian Fogg, broadband analyst at JupiterResearch, said BT's Project Nevis was likely to be a strategic move to position the telco for the future, rather than an immediate boon to the bottom line.

"The reason they're looking at it is, at the moment, broadband internet growth... is driven by people accessing the internet through a PC. If that continues, the broadband penetration will peak somewhere under the PC [penetration]," he said. "They're trying to maximise the revenue they get out of ADSL."

If Project Nevis is initially to be a video-on-demand product, as is widely expected, Fogg believes BT will struggle to carve out a niche. "The UK is one of the most challenging markets to launch new TV platforms," he said. "Their previous efforts in the content space haven't been too successful - you have to wonder about what their plans are and what their partners are."

Fogg speculated, however, that Project Nevis could evolve to become a music-centric product aimed at digital music systems.

In parallel to Project Nevis is BT's move to a core network based entirely on Internet Protocol (IP). This big IP push, its 21st century network or 21CN project, also extends out to the network edge, where BT is betting on converged networks and devices.

In homes and work environments, BT is the major backer of Bluephone, which will initially see mobile handsets that can roam onto fixed networks - with some obvious advantages - using a broadband connection and Bluetooth. This will also eventually be possible over Wi-Fi technology, which adds greater range, or so the plan goes.

Verwaayen added that Bluephone is "going well" with a launch "on plan", meaning it will be available in this spring.

As for standards, the first version will be Bluetooth-based, though the BT chief said: "We are very, very engaged in Wi-Fi phones and the only one developing WiMax [handsets] with Intel."