COLT’s Next Generation Network Underway

Business communications provider COLT says it is in final stages of vendor selection for its next generation network (NGN) and expects to start supporting its first customers on the new platform during 2008. This major network development programme will enable COLT to bring the next generation of communications solutions to market more quickly and offer its business customers a faster, more efficient customer experience.

COLT is migrating to a single ‘three layer’ NGN based on the latest IP and Ethernet technologies, which it will use to run its services as easy-to-install applications. The company anticipates that customers will benefit from greater flexibility and faster provisioning as they will be able to add and modify their services, add users and upgrade bandwidth themselves using an online services portal.

The new platform will also enable COLT to make service changes and launch new solutions more quickly than is possible with today’s networks as the new platform will be simpler to manage and is based on open-standards technology. COLT plans to develop a range of new solutions for its customers including unified communications, mobility and team collaboration tools.

COLT’s Next Generation Network will consist of three layers, running across its advanced 20,000km pan-European fibre network. The ‘engine’ of COLT’s services will consist of:

The transport layer: based on IP underpinned by Ethernet technology, it will enable COLT to simplify and reduce the cost of its core network management and speed up the provisioning of services. COLT will consolidate the transportation of its packet-based services, such as IP VPN and Ethernet, onto a single ‘multi-service provisioning platform’ (MSPP) which guarantees high levels of resilience (‘sub 50 millisecond’) that customers are used to getting with existing SDH networks.

The service control layer: to carry all voice and multimedia services over a single technology platform, COLT will deploy a next generation Softswitch in its network, based on standardised IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS) and Ethernet protocols. COLT will be able to blend together different communications services to offer richer fixed and mobility services to customers.

The IMS platform will also underpin COLT’s new Intelligent Network (IN) platform which will support a full range of services from automated call routing to IP Contact Centres from 2008.

Running on top of the transport and service layers, the application layer will support a raft of next generation solutions, including unified communications, mobility and team collaboration tools. Using the new open-standards platform, COLT will be able to integrate new services and functionality from a wide variety of software vendors.
Migration to the new platform will be gradual and customers who want to retain their existing services will be able to do so.

“We are accelerating our investment in network and data centres in the next two years to ensure our customers benefit from the best communications solutions for their business and the best possible customer experience,” said Rakesh Bhasin, CEO, COLT.

“COLT already has a sophisticated fibre network built around Europe’s business centres and this latest development will enable us to offer customers more flexibility and innovative new communications tools, as well as the resilience they are used to with traditional networks. Ultimately our goal is to make telecommunications transparent, with customers being able to access any application they need, using any device, no matter where they are. This upgrade is a key step in our evolution towards that goal. We will also be upgrading our data centre footprint and will be able to communicate more in the near future.”

COLT has already started offering ‘next generation access’ by rolling out ‘Ethernet in the First Mile’ technology at its unbundled exchanges in France and Belgium, with other countries to follow. Customers not directly connected to COLT’s network are benefiting from a range of services at symmetrical speeds up to 40Mbit/s.