As the industry questions the outlook for BT’s 21CN project, channel players are seeking clarity on the telco giant’s voice strategy.
The project has been subject to numerous delays and obstacles since its inception in 2004. BT’s ultimate goal is to migrate its 17 existing networks onto a single IP platform.
The project, which was originally slated to finish this year, has seen BT inject £10bn in capital investment. Completion of 21CN is not expected until 2011 at the earliest and BT has also canned plans to introduce Wholesale Voice Connect (WVC), its next-generation voice platform.
Michael Eagle, general manager of industry body Federation of Communication Services (FCS), said: “The issue for a lot of our members is that Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) should be supported as a legacy product on 21CN. The ongoing importance of WLR is key because we do not expect next-generation voice products to be delivered any time soon.”
Eagle claimed he expected the project to reach fruition, but added: “The issue is what finally gets delivered. For us, it is about appropriate wholesale products being available.”
BT endured a torrid start to 2009, posting losses of £1.28bn for the three months to 31 March and announcing 15,000 job cuts. The figures have fuelled hearsay about the financial viability of the project. Others have speculated that 21CN will be obsolete by the time it is completed as other carriers develop fibre-based technologies.
Richard Bligh, group marketing director of carrier Gamma Telecom, claimed BT Wholesale’s commitment to the 21CN project could appear at odds with BT Openreach’s work to develop fibre technology.
“There is a lack of clarity on the voice strategy,” he said.
Bligh urged BT to “come clean” on 21CN’s future. “Wide-reaching objectives were launched and none have been fulfilled,” he said. “It is difficult for other network operators to look forward more than about 18 months.”
Adrian Sunderland, chief technical officer at ISP Griffin, said: “No single NGN carrier provides the perfect solution for every channel partner or every customer.”
In a statement issued to CRN, BT asserted it remained committed to the 21CN brand and the project’s rollout. It stated that partners had no cause for concern and claimed BT was not worried about fibre technology affecting 21CN.
“We continually change the scope of 21CN in response to market demand,” added the statement.
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