BT back in the business of 21st century networks

Clare McCarthy and David Molony/Ovum
09 Jun 2010

At the beginning of May, BT and Alcatel-Lucent announced a five-year deal to boost bandwidth and support the BT 21CN transformation project. The contract includes Alcatel-Lucent's enhanced 7750 Service Router.

News flow about BT's 21CN implementation seemed to have slowed down during the last two years, from an external perspective at least. While the Ethernet build-out continued (800 nodes at the last count), that tended to be eclipsed by the challenges at BT Global Services, which needed immediate attention and solving before the 21CN program could make its great leap forward. Also, while much was made in 2007 about fiber rollout in South Wales, progress and results were muted, with BT seemingly withdrawing to rethink tactics.

However, this announcement, which comes just six weeks after Clive Selley's appointment as CEO of BT Innovate and Design, shows that BT is committed to its change program and is investing in its core business: its network. The enhanced 7750 Service Router will allow it to leverage a heavy-duty Ethernet infrastructure. The deal also allows Alcatel-Lucent to turn up capacity in the network as and when required to meet increased demand - a step change for BT in managing multimedia traffic, especially video.

This is not the first win for Alcatel-Lucent in this area. Alcatel-Lucent supplied the Cable & Wireless MSP, and Telstra has had a similar infrastructure in place for Next G. So is BT a latecomer with this announcement?

Telcos getting more from Ethernet

The 7750 platform has been the workhorse for Ethernet (L2) VPN services, particularly in deployments with alternative network operators testing the market for virtual private LAN services (VPLS). However, it hasn't transformed enterprise networking in the way we expected. In 2008, the 7750 was the de facto market leader. Of the 15 service providers we identified offering VPLS (as a pathway to user management of IP VPN), most were built on 7750 fabrics.

In fact, they have found their Alcatel-Lucent infrastructure has served well for national broadband network improvements, with the operator taking advantage of the multiprotocol features, simpler routing control, and low cost of ownership. One of the early adopters, Nextgen Network in Australia, has parlayed its original Alcatel-Lucent platform into a core network renewal with the vendor in a deal similar to BT's.

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