BT Has 21CN Shortlists

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has moved a step closer to deciding which vendors will participate in the construction of its £10 billion ($18.7 billion) next-generation network, dubbed the 21st Century Network (21CN). (See BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project and BT Pushes for Flexibility.)

Sources close to the process say only a handful of principal suppliers are now under consideration, including Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), and Siemens Communications Group.

But there's still a long way to go. BT is currently engaged in 21CN service and equipment trials and has already awarded a number of OSS contracts (see 21CN on Track, Says BT , BT Pins Down OSS Deals, BT Awards Monster OSS Deal, and Vendors Detail Gear in BT VOIP Trials).

The in-field testing, including the monitoring of voice traffic between IP and circuit-switched networks, is "going according to plan," but has not yet yielded any "scientific data" that can be publicly analyzed, says a BT spokesman (see BT Picks Radcom for VOIP Test).

Now the carrier says, from an original group of 300 vendors, it has created shortlists for its five 21CN hardware categories: core, transmission, metro, I-node (service creation and management technologies), and access.

BT says no equipment deals have yet been awarded, but it expects to choose most, if not all, of its hardware suppliers by March 31, the end of its financial year.

Then BT faces a major networking challenge -- to build a new network (based on ten core routers, 100 metro routers, and 30,000 multiservice access devices), and switch off its PSTN by the end of this decade.

That current network includes about 170 core switches, more than 1,000 voice switches and crossconnects, and about 100,000 remote concentrators, DSLAMs, and data multiplexers.

So who's in line to get a piece of the action? BT isn't saying at this point, but sources close to the 21CN process suggest that, across all five shortlists, fewer than ten principal suppliers are named, including those above, with some appearing on multiple shortlists.

That's not only good news for those companies, but also for their partners, as BT has stressed it wants to source multivendor systems from single suppliers.

That creates a multitude of possibilities, so here's a rundown of the companies (in alphabetical order) with a real chance of some shiny 21CN contracts, and some of the intervendor relationships that could tip the balance.

  • Alcatel: It has major strengths in access and Ethernet technology, and is already involved in BT's "new wave" developments and the 21CN trials, although the carrier has always said that being picked for the trials doesn't guarantee any purchase orders (see BT Picks Alcatel Router , BT Completes Convergence Trial, BT Picks Alcatel SIP System, Vendors Claim DSLAM Breakthrough, and Alcatel Pushes Ethernet-Over-MPLS ).

    According to our sources, Alcatel is on BT's access equipment shortlist.

    Success for Alcatel could spell good news for partner Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), and, if the IPTV relationship comes to fruition, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). (See Alcatel, Microsoft Tuning IPTV Deal.)

  • Cisco: Its routing expertise and long-standing relationship with BT should bring its rewards (see BT, Cisco Team on IP in Europe). The 21CN project provides a high-profile opportunity for its shiny new CRS-1 core router, which has already had carrier success (see Cisco Unveils the HFR and Cisco Scores CRS-1 Customers). Its partnership with long-time BT supplier Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) could be key (see Cisco, Ericsson Join Forces).

  • ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL): Another 21CN trialist, ECI brings FTTP and multiservice access technology to the table, though it's the former that's likely to generate any success for the vendor (see ECI's FTTP Goes Live in BT Trial).

    ECI's fortunes could reflect on partner Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which could bring a gamut of legacy and NGN experience in both wireline and wireless technologies to the party (see Nortel Gets Back Into Broadband).

    Experience with mobile systems could play a crucial role given that the 21CN will be one of the first converged networks that will manage and transport multimedia traffic generated by fixed and wireless devices.

    And again, Redback is a partner that could benefit, depending on the breadth of ECI's ultimate involvement (see Redback and ECI Buddy Up). Is there anyone Redback doesn't go out with?

  • Fujitsu: A long-time and well regarded DSLAM supplier to BT, Fujitsu recently had a multiyear services contract extended (see Fujitsu, Skanska Win BT Contract and BT Picks Fujitsu ). Our sources say its name is on the access shortlist. However, like most of the vendors cited, it's not even willing to comment on whether that's the case or not.

    Fujitsu unveiled its multiservice node, the GeoStream Access Gateway Hub 1000, at the Broadband World Forum last September, and has since forged a router partnership with Cisco, though it's uncertain whether that relationship is playing a role in any negotiations with BT (see Vendors Claim DSLAM Breakthrough and Cisco, Fujitsu Form Router Alliance).

  • Huawei: The large Chinese player has been getting closer to BT in the past year, and is well regarded by the carrier. It has already had video conferencing technology trialed and tested, and, according to our sources, its multiservice access equipment is still under consideration (see BT Exact Tests Huawei Routers, Huawei Gets BT's Blessing, Huawei Helps BT Launch Video, and EEscape Deploys Huawei VOIP Kit).

    Huawei has an increasingly close relationship with another of the shortlisted firms, Siemens, as well as other high-profile vendors (see Siemens and Huawei Edge Closer, Huawei Partnership Boosts Avici , Huawei Teams With Microsoft , and Huawei, Redback Get Tunisia Deal).

  • Juniper: Another vendor involved in BT's ongoing trials, it is well positioned from the core to the edge (see Siemens, Juniper Join 21C Trial, Carriers Size Up B-RAS Needs, and BT Exact Tests Juniper's T640).

    As its trial involvement shows, its relationship with Siemens looks critical, though it also has other strong allies, in the shape of Ericsson and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), that could pull it through (see Siemens Jumps for Juniper).

  • Marconi: It's a long-time supplier to BT, involved in the trials, and heavily reliant on the operator for ongoing revenues (see BT Renews $656M Marconi Deal and Marconi Softswitches With BT). Its multiservice Access Hub looks a dead cert to play a role in the 21CN (see Marconi Set for BT Project). Industry insiders believe political and industrial pressures alone will go a long way to securing Marconi a slice of the 21CN action.

    According to our sources, Marconi is on BT's access equipment shortlist.

    All of which spells good news for Marconi's growing base of NGN partners, especially softswitch vendor Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS) and Ethernet equipment firm Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK). (See Marconi & Sonus Team for Next-Gen, HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up, Marconi Resells Newport Session Controller, Riverstone Hitches a Ride With Marconi, and Laurel & Marconi Make It Official.)

  • Siemens Communications Group: One of the pioneers in next-generation systems with its HiPath technologies, Siemens looks a safe bet to be one of BT's strategic suppliers (see Siemens Unveils New Softswitch and Siemens Outlines Next Gen Strategy).

    It is already involved in the 21CN (and other) trials, and is supplying the technology underpinning an already commercial "flexible bandwidth" service (see Siemens, Juniper Join 21C Trial, BT Does VOIP – With Strings Attached, and Siemens, BT Demo Fast Optical Switch).

    The German vendor has experience in mobile as well as next-gen fixed technologies, has a number of key partnerships, particularly with Juniper, and has forged an impressive IPTV solution that others in the video-over-broadband market admire (see Siemens Gears Up for IPTV, Siemens to Resell Kagoor Controllers, and ADVA, Siemens Extend Contract).

    Many of these companies were involved in the Multiservice Switching Forum's recent global SIP services test, which included BT and three other major carriers. BT said the results of that test gave it confidence in its 21CN plans, but added at the time that the MSF project's findings wouldn't influence its contract award process. But it can't have harmed the vendors' chances (see SIP Ready for Prime Time, Says BT).

    Not surprisingly, none of the vendors we contacted for this article are commenting.

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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  • jggveth 12/5/2012 | 3:30:45 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists None of this is relevant to optical?
    jggveth 12/5/2012 | 3:30:45 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists any shiny contracts in store?
    rocksolid 12/5/2012 | 3:30:40 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists The 21CN project has very little to do with a revised optical network for BT.

    It is about transforming BT's voice network from a circuit switch to a packet switch (ie: VoIP) network, and wide-spread roll-out of broadband residential services incl. FTTx.
    rocksolid 12/5/2012 | 3:30:40 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists Given that:

    - Nortel claims, somewhat accurately, to be a leader in VoIP and 21CN is about a complete overbuild of BT's voice network, and....

    - Nortel's long-term presence in the UK (having acquired STC) and all their key European executives being headquartered there...

    ....then why the $%#@*& isn't Nortel on the short list?

    That is a MAJOR loss for them if they are out at this stage.

    I guess considering how messed up the company is then maybe its not surprising.
    kentishman 12/5/2012 | 3:30:36 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists If you have read earlier postings the Core optical is already built this was constructed under the contract signed with Marconi in 2002 (or could be 2001). The presentations on 21cn by BT make this clear and they can be downloaded from the BT Web site if you are interested. Cienna have supplied some Core Director boxes to interface layers between cross connects and the Optical layer, which is based on the Marconi PMA32 optical Add Drop Mux. This is the device Marconi launched years ahead of it's rivals such as Tropic. Recently Cienna has disbanded it's UK team and all support in Europe seems to be coming out of France so it is clear they new some time ago that there was little new business coming their way from BT.
    Naval0fficer 12/5/2012 | 3:29:05 AM
    re: BT Has 21CN Shortlists telspec should perhaps check his facts about ciena. I believe they are still operating from the UK (in fact the EMEA HQ is in london), France is just a regional office. All third line support is based out of London for the whole of EMEA. Ciena has recently shifted its focus and has expanded its product portfolio to include edge devices, particularly in the Broadband access, ethernet and storage areas.
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