BT Says 21CN Deadline Hasn't Moved
Speaking to LRTV this week at Light Reading's Ethernet Expo: Europe, Beal said BT is on course to switch off its PSTN and run all its services on the 21CN "in 2010-11." (See 21CN: It's an Ethernet Thing.) His LRTV interview is right here.
Until now, BT has stuck very firmly to a 2010 timeline for closing down its circuit-switched voice and other legacy networks. Paul Reynolds, the CEO of BT Wholesale, the division of BT that's building and will run the 21CN network, has stressed countless times at public events, and in a previous LRTV interview, that 2010 is BT's deadline to decommission its current networks, and that the business plan on which the 21CN project is based depends upon meeting that deadline. (See BT's 21CN Meets Its Skeptics and Paul Reynolds, CEO, BT Wholesale.)
The 21CN is the most ambitious next generation network plan in the world. Eight primary vendors have been chosen to work with BT to build a single IP network that can carry all residential, business, and wholesale traffic, and save BT up to £1 billion ($1.8 billion) per year in operating costs. (See BT Closes 21CN Deals, Touts IPTV and BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project.)
Reynolds said recently that much of the skepticism BT faces in the industry about its 21CN plans is linked to its timetable. "Some said it couldn't be done. Many of my own people would prefer it if we were taking 10 or 15 years to complete the transformation," said the CEO. (See BT's Learning From Google.)
Now, amid rumors that BT is having delays in South Wales, BT executives are priming the industry and investors for a potential change in plans.
A spokesman for the £10 billion ($18 billion) 21CN project told Light Reading that 21CN is on course as planned, and that the business case remains intact.
"The aim is to switch them [the legacy networks] off as soon as you can. There was always an expectation, though maybe not talked about explicitly, that some platforms, primarily for regulatory reasons, would need to run in parallel with the 21CN, and that there might be a delay in switching some of them off," says the BT Wholesale man.
After Beal's statement, though, an industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says that the first phase of the 21CN project, in South Wales, is facing delays and having technical problems with the underlying VOIP technology. (See BT Takes 21CN 'Baby Step' and Wales to Get 21CN First.)
The source says the deadline for Pathfinder, the name for the first 21CN phase, has been pushed back into 2007, and that BT is struggling to achieve its aim of turning off the local circuit voice switches and having all voice calls running over an IP network.
BT Wholesale denies this rumor. "There is no change of plan for Pathfinder. The plan was to start in November of this year and finish in March 2007," says a spokesman.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading