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Wales to Get 21CN First

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CARDIFF, U.K. -- The people of Cardiff and the surrounding area will be the first in the UK to enjoy phone calls, broadband and Ethernet services over BT’s 21st Century Network (21CN) when it is rolled out to a regional concentration of customers for the first time. The migration of customer lines to the new infrastructure is expected to begin during the second half of 2006.

BT will migrate around 350,000 customer lines in the area, including many served by other telephone and internet service providers and mobile operators. The experience and customer feedback from the first mass customer migration project will help BT finalise plans to roll out 21CN to customers across the UK by the end of the decade.

21CN will enable BT and the rest of the communications industry to deliver a new generation of compelling, converged communications services designed to make the personal and professional lives of people more flexible and businesses more efficient. It will give customers greater control over the way they choose to use communications services in the future.

This major milestone in BT’s 21CN programme will require the replacement of equipment in more than 50 local exchanges and the implementation of new IT systems to underpin the delivery of services to customers. Before services go live over the new infrastructure, all exchange sites in the area will be assessed for power supply, space and logistics planning.

Three new metro nodes, or super telephone exchanges, are to be developed in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, with a further 10 new transmission sites also developed across the region.

Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, said: “It’s incredibly exciting for us that Wales has been selected to provide the test bed for BT’s new 21st Century Network. The Welsh economy is thriving and growing. This investment by BT clearly signifies that Cardiff and central South Wales is one of Europe’s most dynamic and progressive regions. The end result will transform our personal and business lives, and help attract high tech industry and services to Wales.”

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale, said: “Today's announcement represents a critical shift in the focus of BT's 21CN programme, moving from creating the vision and planning, to delivering the future to customers. We chose Cardiff and the surrounding area primarily because of its impressive track record in pioneering the benefits of, and attracting inward investment in, advanced communications and information technology. The area's demographics are also representative of the UK market and critically, BT Wholesale’s customer base. It’s essential that 21CN meets the needs of operators, service providers, businesses and consumers alike.”

Through the industry consultation forum, Consult21, communications and service providers can understand and influence what is a critically important programme for the whole industry. Their input into the planning of customer migration will be key in making this programme a success. BT will be working closely with communications providers in Cardiff and the surrounding area to ensure customers are informed of developments relating to their services in the run up to the migration.

Matt Bross, BT Group’s chief technology officer said: “This rollout will be the first time anywhere in the world that customers will have communications services provided over such a radical next generation network. The operational experience that we gain in Cardiff and the surrounding area will enable us to move full steam ahead and deliver 21CN to everyone in the UK – migrating a total of 30 million lines – in just four years. It’s an enormous technical and operational challenge but will enable customers to benefit from compelling new services”.

BT Group plc

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