Northern Ireland Enters 21st Century

Let’s face it, our politics might be stuck in the 17th century, but Northern Ireland is going to be the first region of the UK to be fully covered by BT’s 21st Century Network, a plan to convert the Public Switched Telephone Network to system that uses IP for both voice and data. By 2010, all Northern Ireland’s exchanges (160 of them) will converge into 3 major hubs (2 in Belfast, 1 in Portadown) utilising the new technology.

According to SwitchedOnUK the line I’m on will be converted between April and June 2009, but what difference will it make to you and me? Well, the main one that jumps out is that maximum ADSL broadband speeds will jump from 8MB/s to 24 MB/s*. Presumably this will be a huge boost to BT’s plans for Video on Demand services among other applications. It will also allow businesses to wider use of more bandwidth intensive applications and hopefully set Northern Ireland up as a good place for them to be.

That said, some of the small print looks a bit worrying.

Broadband services will have a separate switched-on date … Some broadband services may remain on the old network and others will be switched-on to the new network over time.

I’m also not sure how much of the speed quoted is fact and how much is BT’s usual marketing ‘hype’ – remember, at the minute BT’s Northern Irish customers have access of “speeds up to 8MB/s” but many are limited to somewhere between 2 and 6. I’ve no idea if the new figure being bandied about is going to be an flat standard rate or a theoretical maximum.While I would like to think that in a major upgrade like this there would be a way to maximise the connection quality for everyone, regardless of distance from the hub/exchange, but this is BT we’re talking about. If I find out I’ll update this post accordingly. Thanks to KeithBlog for reminding me about this and

for links to more info.