BT HAS picked four f irms for massive fit-out deals as part of its £10 billion plan to overhaul the UK telephone network.
The telecoms giant has chosen Interserve, Kier, London-based Curzon Holdings and Balfour Beatty subsidiary Mansell as contractors for its 21st Century Network upgrade programme.
The firms are in line to share work worth around £250 million in 2006, with more huge spends in the pipeline until 2009.
The 21st Century Network project involves upgrading BT sites to support a move from the traditional public switched telephone network to an internet protocol platform.
The move will allow BT to treat voice and data calls in the same way and offer more services. The company hopes its massive outlay will reap at least £1 billion a year in cost savings.
The four firms declined to comment but a BT source confirmed the identity of the contractors. Consultant Turner and Townsend is also working on the project. The BT source said: 'Turner and Townsend is working on budgets for us although we have not confirmed the scope of the programme yet.' The current programme involves building at least 106 data rooms of between 250 and 500 sq m to provide backup for the new network, as well as installing internet protocol equipment ? called multi-service access nodes ? at 5,500 other sites across the UK.
It is understood that Kier will cover upgrade works across the whole of the UK, with Curzon Holdings concentrating on the south-east, Interserve in the Midlands and Mansell in Scotland.
A source at one of the successful contractors said: 'As long as we perform, getting on this framework means we have a very steady income stream for the next four years.' BT has begun trials of the new IP network in Kent, London and East Anglia, but the major roll-out will begin in earnest during 2006. It plans to complete the transfer of the network in 2009.