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ABC - BT's 21st Century Not Ambitious

Posted: 11th Jun, 2004 By: MarkJ
The Access to Broadband Campaign (ABC) group has echoed some of our reader comments by criticising BT's ‘21st Century Network’ plan for not being ambitious enough. The lack of a clear 'Fibre to the Home' timescale is one such failing:

Life in the Slow Lane Continues

BT’s announcement regarding its transition to a ‘21st Century Network’ is welcomed but it demonstrates a lack of ambition says the UK’s leading broadband campaign group. They argue it’s:

* Not ambitious enough – reluctant to launch Fibre to the Home in the 2010 timescale

* Vague – no clarity on the sorts of services they expect to launch, the types of data speeds they envisage. No clear statement of the potential benefits to customers

* Heavy on benefits for BT and its shareholders and light on benefits for users. The massive cash savings seem not to be destined reduce costs to end users but to grow BT's cash generating ability.

This announcement follows the standard incumbent pattern of 'staged evolutionary progress on BT's terms' says ABC’s consumer advocate Errol Ziya. Or in other words, “Do the minimum necessary as slowly as necessary to stave off 'forced' change. BT is making vague and fairly unspecific 'jam tomorrow' promises”.

The announcement is also about creating a network that could allow BT to create and control next generation services. ABC is advocating a “best network model” so that other players (and importantly end users) can create next generation services and applications. “We welcome BT’s announcement in as far as it represents progression (compared with no progression)". It begins to look like a 'best network' attempt says Ziya – “But one where the vast bulk of the benefits of doing this remain with BT and not with users who need to move data at lowest cost.”

ABC, a not-for-profit campaigning organisation has a technology-neutral and supplier-neutral stance. ABC agrees with the Government’s target of making the UK the most competitive and extensive market in the G7.

“We hope that BT Wholesale will open up much more about the future availability of interconnection products on its 21CN.“ Ziya points out that 95% of existing interconnection products (BT wholesale products that allow competing operators to interconnect to BT's network) are based on the old PSTN network.

“By announcing that they are going to ‘bypass’ and replace their old PSTN network they could create an opportunity for 'lobbying' on the creation of an entirely new sets of interconnection products. New network is fine - but we need new interconnection products and a new affordable basis for interconnection products. It should not be BT that defines these in a vacuum, in a reactive and stalling way. They should be defined proactively and separately from BT in partnership with stakeholders. We look forward to working with BT, other industry players and Ofcom in defining the 2010 agenda.”
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