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ITU: BT launches consulting businesss

HONG KONG--BT used ITU Telecom World 2006 to announce the launch of a new business unit, 21C Global Venture, that will market its next-generation network expertise to service provider customers around the globe.

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The company had earlier this year plans announced plans to market such a service at the Globalcomm 2006 show in Chicago.

The British telecom giant will use the unique expertise it gained in being the first major carrier to launch a next-generation network initiative, BT’s 21st Century Network (21CN) that completed replaced its legacy networks with a single Internet Protocol-based operation and dramatically transformed BT’s business processes and services in the process. The 21CN debuted last week when the first customers went live in the village of Wick, near Cardiff, in South Wales. Between now and next summer, BT will turn up 21CN for the rest of South Wales, about 350,000 customers. Most of the U.K. will be on the new network by 2010, said Paul Reynolds, CEO of BT Wholesale.

“We are the first operator in the world to realize the vision of the next-generation network,” Reynolds said today in an ITU media briefing. “You learn lessons when you go first.””

Among those lessons are how to create business plans and transform business processes, new ways of working with vendors to drive open source standards and interoperability, and methods of consulting within the industry – including with other carriers, he added. BT pioneered that effort through Consult21, a forum for other communications providers who both compete and collaborate with BT to both understand and influence the 21CN plans. Through 21C Global Venture, BT will be offering consulting services that share its collective expertise.

“There are major learning points we are in a position to share,” Reynolds said.

Many service providers globally face the same kinds of challenges BT faced when it launched 21CN, said Paul Excell, chief of operations, BT Group Technology Office, chief among them being the need to reduce costs while simultaneously bringing new services to market more quickly and efficiently.

“Ät the time we launched this, BT was 30 billion pounds in debt and losing 10 million pounds a week,” he said. “We had to transform our business. That transformation included our processes and our people and it meant reducing our portfolio of services and a radical reduction of networks into a single all-IP capability.”

Along the way, BT did more than half-a-million different integration tests, Excell said.
“We’ve taken an open source approach and driven the right capabilities into the network and we have been able to push our providers to interoperate,” he said. “Has it been easy and straightforward for us and our trusted partners? No, it’s been difficult for both of us. But we are partners in this effort – this isn’t about us policing what they are doing. This is a joint effort.”

Being first and mounting such a high-profile effort helped convince BT’s equipment vendors to “commit to some unnatural acts” such as sharing more information about their systems with other vendors including competitors,” Reynolds said. “We think we can help translate some of that for other service providers. We can certainly show what we can achieve through this kind of effort.”

He also pointed to BT’s decision to have two vendors for every aspect of its 21CN as a critical choice that enabled the company to keep a certain amount of pressure on vendors.

Among the hardest transitions was the transformation of BT’s people, Reynolds said. “The human challenge is much more complicated than the technical challenge,” he said. “It’s a changing dynamic. That’s the kind of expertise we believe we can share with others.”

After the South Wales buildout is complete, BT will pause briefly to assess how things are going, both through internal conversations and consultation with others involved in Consult21, Reynolds said.

“Consult21 has had a huge impact on the business plan of other carriers – it has let us create a shared vision,” he said. The changes in BT’s network necessarily meant changes for serivce providers who interconnect, collaborate and compete with the U.K. incumbent in what is arguably the most competitive telecom market in the world, Reynolds said, and BT initially “was worried there would be resistance.” As it turned out, however, more service providers were interested in being part of the Wick rollout than BT could accommodate.

Reynolds and Excell insist 21CN is on track with its original timetable and budget, with one caveat – BT decided a while back not to wait for the 21CN rollout to deliver faster Internet access and is instead rolling out ADSL2+ over the next year to offer 24 Megabit per second service.

BT is already enlisting customers for 21C Global Venture, Excell said, including Turk Telecom.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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