A small village in south Wales is the first area in the UK to be connected to BT's all-IP network. More than 100 consumers in Wick were the first customers to be connected to the BT 21st Century Network, dubbed 21CN. The UK operator is switching its entire networking infrastructure to IP instead of traditional circuit-switched systems

BT said the move to IP would allow it to offer customers "triple-play" voice, data and video services over a single ADSL2+ broadband connection, at speeds up to 24Mbit/s. Among the new services supported by the network are VoIP (voice over IP) and IPTV.

At the same time, the move will allow the operator to lower operating costs. It expects to save around £1 billion (US$1.9 billion) per year as a result of the network overhaul. Total cost of the overhaul is estimated at £10 billion.

By mid-2007, BT plans to have switched more than 350,000 lines to its next-generation network, according BT spokeswoman Anna Easton. "We aim to use the first phase as a learning period," she said.

The operator aims to have "the bulk" of the country's 30 million lines converted to IP by the end the decade, Easton said, although as it still cannot supply ADSL to all urban areas this might be a stiff task.

As part of its carrier wholesale operations, BT will resell capacity over its new network to around 400 telecommunications service providers in the country.

21CN is based on systems, such as SIP, which allows the service provider to control the communications activity to meet a customer's requirements, and MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching), which enables the efficient designation and routing of IP traffic flows.

Original reporting by IDG news service