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Details trials of 21CN

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BT is begin limited trials of fibre-to-the-home to assess its technical and commercial viability.

Up to 1,500 homes and businesses in Martlesham Heath in Suffolk, Milton Keynes and London's Docklands are to have fibre lines up and running in October.

New fibre optic cables are to be installed between BT exchanges and the properties of those taking part in the year-long trial.

However, BT has made it clear that even if successful, it is likely to install fibre only to new-build sites and developments. It has no plans to engage in the widespread replacement of existing copper cables.

BT Wholesale chief exec Paul Reynolds said the real benefits of this trial are expected to be in "informing our thinking on the relative costs and benefits of deploying fibre, rather than copper, to homes and businesses in green-field sites or new-build developments".

News of BT's fibre trial came as the UK's dominant fixed line telco announced a five-year plan to upgrade its existing phone network to an end-to-end IP (Internet Protocol) network.

The 21st century network (21CN) will replace the UK's public switched telephone network (PSTN) and will carry both voice and data services. The mass migration of customers onto the new network is set to begin in 2006 with the majority shunted across by 2008. Before then, BT is to trial 21CN in Cambridge and Woolwich.

From October, BT will divert voice calls between these areas to its 21CN IP network. Calls will be carried using IP packet technology rather than the circuit switched technology used on PSTN.

BT says the switchover will be "seamless" e. If all goes to plan, another 18 exchanges in South East London, Kent and East Anglia - which are connected to the network nodes in Cambridge and Woolwich - will also take part in the trial. ®

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