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

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 (8:26 am) - Score 1,565
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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The Datastream product is being withdrawn nationally, yet at the same time BT are also withdrawing their older / similar IPStream services but only within the 21CN WBC footprint (i.e. those within 20CN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.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Tony Tugulu, Honestly, Seriously? Price Increases….from where? Left unchecked…Huh?

    For someone who is Director of Managed Networks…I’m gobsmacked at his remarks, though I presume Bloomberg have misquoted him :/

  2. Avatar MikeW

    Are the numbers right here?

    From the fibre rollout, we see the number of premises (both business and residential) as 27 million. If 2 million will be left on 20CN, it must be 25 million that are on 21CN. Or is it really 23 million on 21CN, leaving 4 million on 20CN?

  3. The figures above originally come from BT but that was early last year. BT’s commercial deployment to 66% is also said to reach 19 million premises by spring 2014, which is about as concrete as you can get right now. Anything else is probably BDUK related, which I always take with a pinch of salt (never know if they’re talking population, just homes, homes and businesses, including mobile etc.).

  4. Avatar FibreFred

    I don’t see the issue, we (a 20CN customer) were notified well over a year ago (probably longer) of the withdrawal, if they choose to do nothing about it you can’t blame BT?

  5. Avatar Neil McRae

    To be absolutely clear, there is no withdrawal of 20C based broadband were there is no alternative.. When BT builds a 21C pop BT of course migrate customers to 21C.

    20C Datastream is being withdrawn along with other ATM products.

  6. Avatar Neil McRae

    So 20C IPSteam will still be available but 20C data stream will be withdrawn

  7. Neil is correct. As I recall BT are withdrawing their older IPStream services, albeit only within the 21CN WBC footprint, while Datastream is going nationally. Clarified story above.

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