21CN is short for 21st Century Network, a huge IP upgrade to British Telecom’s existing facilities. It debuted on November 28 in Cardiff, South Wales. The first person to use it (and the one in the photo) was Laura Wess, an 11-year-old who talked to a nearby bishop for all of 90 seconds. Other phone calls on the network followed, whether or not residents knew they were using new technology.
So 21CN is live in South Wales. What about the rest of the country? Well, those who live everywhere but South Wales will have to wait a fair bit. BT says that the whole country won’t be blanketed in 21CN technology until at least 2010. Given telecom companies’ propensity to overpromise and underdeliver, residents of the U.K. are probably looking at anywhere from two to eight years, depending on proximity to major cities and the work speed of the technological upgrade personnel.
The significance of this new network is that it will allow voice, data, broadband, and multimedia—all on the same line. Faster broadband speeds are promised as well. Currently, only some of those features are possible on all U.K. phone lines.