BT is expanding its Internet Protocol (IP) backbone network in the UK to make it 60 times faster and grow to 300 times the capacity of today's IP network.
About half a billion pounds is being spent on increasing the network from 14 to 103 points of presence (POPs) giving BT the greatest number of access points of any UK IP network.
It is part of an overall investment of £5 billion in BT's BeTaNet infrastructure - the advanced IP and multimedia network launched last February.
Barry Flanigan, senior consultant for Ovum said: "BT has to do this to cope with the unprecedented growth in data traffic. It is future proofing the network and BT is not alone in doing this. It is a general trend."
Ovum figures predict that by the end of the year, data traffic will be 70 per cent and 30 per cent voice, whereas three years ago the greater proportion was voice. By 2005, Flanigan said the difference will be "more dramatic" with voice traffic down to a mere two per cent of traffic worldwide.
Multi-gigabit router technology and wave division multiplexing (WDM) optical fibre systems will increase BT's IP backbone network's speed and capacity.
An extra 100,000 IP dial ports (modem gateways to the Internet network) will be ready by April next year, with up to 100,000 planned by September 2000. The additional ports will enable BT to separate Internet calls from voice calls at its local exchanges, and stream the traffic onto its IP backbone network rather than the core public telephone network.
David Hughes, BT's head of Internet and IP network services said that "costs have been dominated by traditional telephony equipment" and that it is now possible to reduce prices for Internet service providers (ISPs) and their customers by "getting traffic off the phone network and onto the new IP backbone."
The extent to which they optimise their networks and pass on reduced costs is a "grey area" said Flanigan, explaining: "There are opportunities and headaches in managing the transition. Although voice is only 30 per cent in terms of traffic, it earns the larger proportion of revenues," he added.
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