Spreading the NGN word

03 May 2007
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BT set up 21 Century Global Venture to share its unique NGN experience with service providers around the world. Steve Johnson, head of the venture, shares with group editor Joseph Waring how BT is using insight gained through 21CN in the UK to help others accelerate and lower the risk of NGN programs

Telecom Asia: What was the main reason for starting up the venture‾

Steve Johnson: As I'm sure you're aware, BT's 21 Century Network program, particularly the transformation we're undergoing in the UK, given the scale of it and the fact that we're completely replacing all of our legacy networks, is pretty much more radical than anyone else is doing on that scale, and therefore is attracting a great deal of interest from other network operators around the world.

The rationale behind the 21 Century Global Venture is to take the learning from the UK and package it up in a way we can actually work with other operators to help them analyze their own situations and look at NGN transformation and see how it could work for them. We work with them to implement the transformation, effectively learning from the mistakes we made in the UK to help the operators transform more quickly and at lower risk then they could probably do themselves. Ultimately we think there is money in it.

Is this essentially a branching of your managed services business‾

Part of this is around a broader transformation of what we do in the wholesale business outside of the UK. Within our global services division, we have an organization called Global Telecoms Markets, which is a global wholesale channel and undergoing a more general transformation into the provision of managed services to other operators. 21C Global Ventures has been set up with Global Telecom Markets as the sales channel if you will as part of that transformation.

After your experience with 21CN, it would appear fairly logical to market that expertise to others.
Absolutely. What we're finding in practice is that service providers are coming at this from a number of different directions. Some are in a similar situation to BT and wondering how they would go about effecting such a transformation, what sort of investment would be needed and managing the risk of that, and what it means in terms of customer impact. Others are coming at this from various new opportunities, perhaps from investment in new infrastructure, growing the footprint of the network and increasing its penetration. Essentially here we're looking at a more greenfield build of an NGN.

We're seeing both of those extremes - major transformational opportunities but also significant greenfield opportunities as well.

How receptive have operators been to being approached by another service provider instead of by an equipment vendor‾

They are pretty receptive. Our value is that because we are going this for ourselves and because we are a service provider we understand all the dimensions of this. The vendors obviously can advise on the technical aspects and will tend to steer the solution toward one that they can deliver. BT has deliberately gone for a multi-vendor solution in the UK, with essentially two vendors for each of the technology domains, which gives us better security against any problem with any individual vendor and also lower overall cost than if we had gone for a single-vendor solution.

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