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BT chooses partners for 21st Century Network

Marconi is the big loser as BT selects suppliers for the massive task of IP-enabling its entire network
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

BT has chosen its preferred suppliers for a multi-billion pound upgrade of its UK infrastructure known as the 21st Century Network project (21CN).

Cisco, Alcatel, Lucent, Fujitsu, Huawei, Siemens, Ericsson and Ciena have all been selected to supply equipment and services that will allow BT replaces today's circuit-switched networks with a single IP-based network.

"21CN is a key infrastructure that will fuel the UK economy and provide a flexible way for consumers to use new services. The selection of the preferred suppliers is an incredibly important building block towards that vision," said Paul Reynolds, BT Wholesale chief executive, in a statement.

However, some big names have missed out, most notably Marconi whose share price plunged over forty percent following BT's announcement.

Marconi claimed on Thursday morning that its product had "performed extremely well technically" but that it had been unable to meet BT's "commercial requirements".

The 21CN project is set to cost BT around £10bn over the next few years. BT is the first incumbent telco to embark on such an ambitious move. While this does mean BT must address the challenges inherent with being a first-mover, the upside is that it is in a strong position when negotiating contracts with vendors, as involvement in 21CN will be a valuable card to play when other telcos start upgrading their own networks.

Fujitsu and Huawei will supply the technology to link BT's existing voice and data networks with the new IP-based infrastructure. Alcatel, Cisco and Siemens will supply kit for the 'metro nodes', which will handle the routing and signalling functions for the unified 21CN network for voice, data and video traffic.

Cisco and Lucent will provide the core nodes — high capacity, large scale routers providing cost efficient connections between metro nodes. Cisco will deploy its CRS-1 router, which typically costs several hundred thousand pounds.

Ericsson will supply control systems for 21CN, while Ciena and Huawei will supply the optical electronics that will convert the signals carried at high capacity over the cables connecting the metro and core nodes.

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