The roll-out of the 21CN (21st Century Network) probably has many people confused, especially with all its talk of an IP network, and Voice over IP services. The main rule is that your existing telephone service will continue to work as it does now, though at the time your local area is switched onto 21CN you may see a short gap in service.
In an effort to allay fears about the changes, BT in consultation with Ofcom has launched a website where you can check the date when your area will see the 21CN upgrades. Visit http://switchedonuk.org to find out more.
For broadband (ADSL) users it will be business as usual, but hidden away in the sites FAQ is what is an interesting snippet - "This is being done so that the relevant areas – which account for around 50% of the UK’s broadband users – can be established on the new BT network before the launch of next generation broadband services in January 2008.". The launch of next generation services hints at more than just a move of the existing IPStream Home/Office/Max products to a new back-haul network, with the answer being perhaps a combination of exchange based ADSL2+ followed hopefully by a roll-out programme seeing street cabinets upgraded to support mini-DSLAMs and shorten the length of metallic cable and thus offer those kilometres away from the exchange access to the high speeds that will be needed for services like Video on Demand, and High Definition TV.
While many of the DSLAMs that BT has installed can support ADSL2+ we suspect that the roll-out is being held back until the IP centric BT network has been fully commissioned, which will allow for a new type of BT Central product to be launched. The BT Central is what connects most service providers into the BT Wholesale network, and at present is relatively expensive, with the proposed ongoing cost savings the 21CN upgrades offer, higher capacity next generation BT Centrals may be cheaper than the current ones. When you consider an existing 155Mbps BT Central costs around £316,000 to rent, and ADSL2+ can run at up to 24Mbps, to offer affordable ADSL2+ via BT Wholesale would mean retaining the similar peak time performance qualification which we have now, that at peak times up to 8Mbps services may only offer throughput similar to a 2Mbps service, unless people were ready to pay a substantial premium for the higher speed services.
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