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BT is only months away from launching one of the linchpins of its 21CN strategy

February 7, 2008

4 Min Read
BT Inches Toward Telco 2.0

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is only months away from taking a giant leap into the so-called Telco 2.0 world by exposing its next-generation service creation platform to third-party applications developers, the carrier announced today as it reported its third-quarter earnings. (See BT Reports Q3.)

BT has been talking about this Web 2.0 initiative, which it calls Web21C, for a few years now: The move is part of the ongoing £10 billion (US$19.4 billion) 21CN project that will see BT migrate to a converged, all-IP network sometime around 2011. (See BT's Learning From Google, Why Telcos Need Web 2.0, and What's Up With IMS?)

BT’s CTO, Matt Bross, has been particularly vocal about the need for BT, and other carriers, to establish service development relationships with third-party developers (including other service providers), and he presented on the issue at last June’s NXTcomm show in Chicago. (See Carriers Surf the Web 2.0 Wave.)

So what’s BT doing?

Well, it made its Web21C service development kit (SDK) available to developers both inside and outside BT in July 2007. It has by now been downloaded from a public Website about 8,000 times, with half of those downloads being made within the U.K.

Since then, says Joe Kelly, head of communications at BT Wholesale, 20 commercial applications have been developed, some by BT developers and some by independent developers. One is BT Tradespace, a directory and contact Web portal for small businesses.

In addition there are a “couple of thousand” applications being tested in the Sandbox environment set up by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). (See Microsoft Unveils Sandbox and Mashup Wins Competition.)

All that development to date has been at arm’s length. Now, though, BT is ready to take things to the next level and open up its service delivery platform -- or the Innovation Platform, as BT calls it -- to those developers, to allow them access to existing service code as it’s made available, work on new applications, and test them to see how they would perform on the BT network.

And this is where that Web21C development ties in with BT’s other 21CN-related news. Today the carrier announced that is set to launch a range of new services in the coming year based on the new 21CN platforms it has been deploying.

Those services are:

  • Next Generation Ethernet: BT has developed a new set of wholesale Ethernet services that, starting this month, it will be marketing to corporate customers and mobile operators. (See BT Sells PBT-Based Backhaul Service.) Kelly says that by the end of March 2009, BT will be offering these new Ethernet services from 1,000 service nodes within the U.K.

  • Wholesale Broadband Connect: ADSL2+ services, offering speeds up to 24 Mbit/s (and maybe even the full 24 Mbit/s, if you happen to live next to the local exchange). The new broadband services are currently being trialed in the East Midlands region of England, and are set to be offered commercially from April 30.

  • Next-generation converged broadband and voice services: Unspecified new IP voice services managed over a broadband connection, most likely linked to BT’s struggling Fusion service.

”These services represent the first very clear launch of new services” based on the 21CN platform, states Kelly. And the key link to the Innovation Platform is that BT expects developers to “add value to those new services, using the service delivery platform and the Web21C SDK, to build new applications that can add value to those existing services.”

21CN revamp
That wasn’t the only 21CN news issued today. During the carrier’s earnings presentation, CEO Ben Verwaayen said BT’s approach to migrating to the new all-IP network had changed slightly: The geographic rollout, and decommissioning of legacy platforms and services, will be driven initially by demands from BT’s wholesale customers rather than by a timetable set by BT.

But despite concerns from financial analysts, Verwaayen claimed that BT is still on course to complete the migration from about 18 separate networks to one by 2011 and that the eventual annual cost savings might even exceed the original £1 billion ($1.9 billion) target.

”I won’t be satisfied with £1 billion -- I expect the benefits to be much greater. There is an enormous amount of cost saving opportunity ahead of us,” said the CEO.

Verwaayen also boasted how the carrier’s third quarter had been another successful financial period, but BT’s numbers fell short of analyst expectations, and the operator’s share price fell by 10 percent to 237 pence ($4.60) on the London Stock Exchange .

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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