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BT's next-generation network delayed

Information on BT's Web site shows that its 21st Century Network won't be complete until 2011, a year later than planned
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

The £10bn transformation of BT's network is facing delays of at least a year.

The upgrade to BT's 21st Century Network (21CN) was previously scheduled for completion by 2010, but now the telco has quietly moved its deadline back to 2011.

21CN will now be implemented over three years from 2008, according to information on the company's Web site. This shows that some parts of Northern England, Scotland, Wales and South West England will not have been migrated to the all-IP network by 2010.

Nationwide rollout will only begin after a review of early installations, which is intended to take place early in 2008. Back when the project was announced in June 2004, BT had said that "mass migration of customers onto the new network will begin in 2006".

"We always said it would take time — it is an ambitious programme," said a BT spokesperson on Tuesday. "21CN covers 30 million lines and it really can't be done any quicker than this."

Despite the overrun, BT is insistent that the network will be completed within the original budget and with the projected cost savings.

"The business case remains the same," said the BT spokesperson.

The telco is due to spend £10bn on the network, which it says will reduce operational expenditure by £1bn a year from 2008/2009.

It appears that there may be confusion within BT over the timescale for 21CN. While the telco's wholesale division — which is building the network — argues that much of the country will be upgraded in 2010, its retail arm told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the network would be complete by 2009.

The first customers will be connected in November this year, with full rollout in the Cardiff area.

Businesses will have to wait for their area to be upgraded to experience the next generation of broadband, BT added.

Download speeds on BT's network will be capped at 8Mbps until the new network is installed.

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