In the UK, BT has announced that it has today signed contracts with the remaining four preferred suppliers for its next generation network transformation programme. Known as the 21st Century Network (21CN), the programme will transform BT's networks by reducing complexity and radically reducing costs. Savings of around GBP1 billion a year are predicted by 2008/09.

BT's preferred suppliers all have operations in the U.K. Each agreement signed will support employment in the U.K. among the suppliers selected as well as BT itself.

Alcatel and Cisco have been selected to supply metro nodes providing routing and signalling for 21CN's voice, data and video services. Cisco has also been selected to supply large scale routers providing high capacity, cost efficient connections between metro nodes.

Ericsson has been selected in the i-node domain - in essence the intelligence that controls the services. Fujitsu will be providing access technology which will link BT's existing network with the new 21CN, BT said.