Following the migration of the first live customers onto BT’s 21st Century Network (21CN) in South Wales, BT is to close the 21CN voice trial network which made communications history in 2005 when it carried the world’s first phone calls over an all IP next generation infrastructure. The trial network, linking BT exchanges in central London, Woolwich and Cambridge, has carried over 160 million calls and provided valuable testing and learning that is now being deployed with live customers.
As BT gears up to migrate some 350,000 customers in Cardiff and the surrounding area onto 21CN over the course of this year, the completion of the trial sends a further signal that 21CN has entered a new phase, with BT focusing on the mass implementation of the new network.
The start of the 21CN voice trial in 2005 marked the beginning of BT’s muti-billion pound investment in a national next generation network for the UK. The trial formed a critical part of BT’s 21CN testing plans to ensure that customers continue to enjoy the high standards of service quality on 21CN as they do today on the existing PSTN network, and has been instrumental in shaping BT’s plans for implementing 21CN across the country, and the rest of the globe.
In 2006, the second phase of the trial saw the integration of equipment from BT’s strategic 21CN vendors. This provided BT with invaluable early learning experience of the 21CN technology and the operation of the network. With 21CN equipment already installed at hundreds of sites across the UK, and the first stage of the process of migrating customers well underway, the technology is fully proven and this component of BT’s 21CN testing programme is complete. 600 BT employees were involved in the trial which will close fully in September.
Handling around 500,000 calls per day, the trial consistently showed that customers enjoyed the same, if not better, levels of call quality using an all IP network as they would using the existing PSTN network.
Matt Beal, CTO of BT Wholesale said, “This trial has been hugely significant in informing our plans for the nationwide deployment of 21CN. Its completion demonstrates the tremendous strides that we’ve made together with our strategic vendors and communications provider customers in bringing 21CN from concept to reality for end-customers. From making the world’s first end to end IP test calls using the trial network back in January 2005, we’re now successfully moving the first customers across to 21CN with the network fully live in parts of South Wales. By the end of this year, we will have upgraded 350,000 lines. And in other parts of the country, we’re busy preparing exchanges and upgrading infrastructure to enable national migration from early 2008, starting with broadband.”
The closure of the 21CN voice trials marks the end of one critical phase of BT’s comprehensive testing programme for 21CN. BT continues to enhance its 21CN testing capabilities with the installation of world class testing facilities at Adastral Park and in Swansea. BT is working closely with communications providers, manufacturers and industry bodies to test systems, services and customer equipment to ensure full interoperability with 21CN and service excellence for customers.