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UK Businesses At Risk as BT Set to Disconnect 20CN Broadband Services

Wednesday, Feb 5th, 2014 (8:26 am) - Score 1,640

The national telecoms operator has rebuffed claims made by business Internet provider Timico, which earlier this week estimated that 10% of companies in the United Kingdom could face the “worst case scenario” of being completely “cut off” from their broadband services as BT withdraws its old 20CN platform.

BT has long been working to retire their older 20th Century Network (20CN) based broadband ISP services (e.g. 8Mbps ADSL Datastream products) and began the final phase of this effort during October 2013, which was originally due to complete by 31st March 2014 when a total of 2549 telephone exchanges will have been affected (details).


The Datastream product is being withdrawn nationally, yet at the same time BT are also withdrawing their older / similar IPStream services but only within the 21CN WBC footprint (i.e. those within 20CN areas can still get basic ADSL broadband).

Tony Tugulu, Timico’s Director of Managed Networks, said (Bloomberg):

This switch-off will have catastrophic consequences for businesses who are unprepared for the migration to 21CN. As an example, one Timico customer in the retail sector with several hundred sites across the UK had, until very recently, almost 20% of its sites connected to old services. If left unchecked this would have meant price rises and then loss of service to dozens of business locations, thousands of pounds in fee increases and severe business disruption.”

However the retirement process only affects telephone exchange areas where BT’s replacement 21st Century Network (21CN) infrastructure exists, which supports faster speeds via 20Mbps ADSL2+ technology and a variety of other products (e.g. FTTC, although this is a separate upgrade on top of 21CN and WBC).

In all around 92% of the UK (23 million homes and businesses) are currently served by BT’s 21CN network, which leaves mostly rural areas (around 2 million premises) to struggle on with 20CN for a few more years until either BDUK or commercial developments force BT to upgrade them too (the government’s 95% target for fixed line superfast broadband coverage will no doubt help).

A BT Spokesperson said:

We are working closely with industry to ensure the smooth migration of any remaining end customers onto our next generation network. There is still plenty of time for end customers to migrate as we will continue to maintain the legacy broadband network until the end of September 2014. We would urge communications providers to migrate their customers onto the next generation network by the end of June 2014 however, and to contact us should they experience any problems.”

BT confirmed that most ISPs had already completed or are nearing the end of migrating their customers over to the 21CN platform. Indeed it’s important to stress that the ISP holds ultimate responsibility for ensuring that their customers never have to face the prospect of disconnection; they’ve certainly had plenty of warning and ample time to prepare (the process technically started in 2008/9).


Never the less there will always be those situations where, for one reason or another (e.g. admin errors etc.), somebody somewhere might find themselves still stuck on the old platform when the lights go out. But hopefully this will only impact a tiny number or none at all.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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