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BT has been banging the drum about its new 21st century network (21CN) and how it is set to revolutionise just about everything. The former monopoly's new IP network is "exciting", "radical", and "now", enthused chief evangelist BT Wholesale boss Paul Reynolds on Monday.

Addressing the inaugural 21st Century Communications World Forum in London, Reynolds said: "We're seeing the beginnings of the wired home revolution, or more likely the wireless IP home revolution. The network will sit at the heart of society. It will be the nervous system that fuels the economy, government, business and human relationships in a way it never has before."

His hour-long address to an audience of several hundred delegates highlighted BT's strategy to phase out the UK's public switched telephone network (PSTN), replacing it with a multi-service internet protocol (IP) based network which will carry both voice and data services. As well as paving the way for a string of new hi-tech applications 21CN is expected to deliver cash savings of £1bn a year to BT by 2009.

Reynolds accepts that broadband telephony - VoIP - poses a real threat to established telcos such as BT and that "embracing the IP future" requires huge investment and new skills. Some operators have decided to ride out this period of change, to hunker down, as Reynolds put it, strip investments back to maintenance levels and adopt a wait and see approach.

Not BT. It believes a radical approach backed by investment is key.

"None of us can stop the march of technological progress. The future became inevitable the day we learned how to fully digitise our industry. Digitised voice, data and video can now be combined, changed, merged and manipulated on a single digital platform. 

"And if it is the ability to merge multiple information formats on a single platform that is driving the desire for convergence at a device level, the availability of carrier-class IP networks, multi-service networks and software-driven switching, are fuelling the agenda for fundamental change in our industry."

21st Century Communications World Forum runs until Thursday. ®

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IP telephony tests go global
BT to trial fibre-to-the-home
BT to save £1bn a year with IP network

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