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20 September, 2006 - 16:00 By Staff Reporter

How the “biggest communications transformation the UK has ever seen” will affect the East

BT today outlined plans to invest £1.32 billion over the next five years to provide the East of England with a world-leading communications network.BT today outlined plans to invest £1.32 billion over the next five years to provide the East of England with a world-leading communications network.

The aim according to the telco incumbent is to provide the infrastructure “designed to carry both today’s and tomorrow’s voice, data, video on-demand television and broadband services.”

The first customers in the region to be switched over to this next generation network will be in parts of Norwich, Ipswich, Southend, Peterborough,Chelmsford, Cambridge and Colchester.

The switch over is planned to start in January 2008, with all people in the region being switched over by the end of 2011.

The East of England programme is part of BT’s multi-billion pound ‘21st Century Network’ (21CN) investment in a next generation network, with one of the benefits being access to wholesale broadband services with speeds of up to a whopping 24Mbit/s – triple the fastest speeds currently available for most UK customers.

Peter McCarthy-Ward BT’s Regional Director for the East of England said: “BT’s investment in the world’s most modern communications infrastructure will benefit everyone in the region and will create an environment capable of transforming the way we live, work, learn and play.

"It opens the door to a range of new products and entertainment options being developed by service providers, building on innovations like television on your mobile phone and video over broadband that are already becoming a reality.

“It will also help to attract and retain inward investment in the region and we therefore urge business leaders – and consumers – to get ready to capitalise on the benefits of the new network."

BT says it aims to make 21CN available to those communities in more rural parts of the region, as well as to those in densely populated towns and cities.

In the East of England rural Essex communities including Little Waltham and Tillingham will be connected to 21CN voice services in the same phase as Chelmsford; and villages including Sicklesmere, Suffolk, and Six Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire, will be connected to 21CN voice services in the same phase as the city of Cambridge.

The project will involve the replacement of equipment at more than 550 exchanges across the region. Also, 13 “metro nodes” or super exchanges

providing routing and signalling for the unified 21CN network for voice, data and video will be located at strategic, but as yet unspecified points across the East of England.

BT describes 21CN as the biggest transformation the UK communications industry has ever seen.

Nearly two and a half million lines in the East of England – serving business and residential customers of all UK telecommunications operators – will eventually be transferred over to the new network.

John Snyder, EEDA board member, said: "Ensuring the region has a twenty first century infrastructure is one of EEDA’s key goals. This investment in the region’s ICT infrastructure will bring many benefits to residents and businesses and will allow them to exploit the opportunities offered by new communication technologies to the full."

Today’s announcement follows months of detailed consultation with the UK telecommunications industry.

The programme will enable the delivery of up to 24Mbit/s broadband services to around 50 per cent of the UK from the beginning of 2008. Among them will be around 1.1 million customers served by more than 60 East of England exchanges.

More information about the migration of the East of England exchanges onto the 21CN will be released later in the autumn.

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