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May 24, 1988

BRITISH TELECOM HOPES TO SELL ITS CUSTOMER SERVICES SYSTEM TO OVERSEAS PTTs

By CBR Staff Writer

British Telecommunications Plc is drawing up plans to mount an export drive for its multi-million pound Customer Services System: having spent a fortune developing the system after several false starts, it hopes to recoup some of the cost by selling the system to other telephone authorities. John Spackman, director of computing at Telecom, said he has received expressions of interest from PTTs in Europe, the Far East and the Pacific Basin, raising his hopes that the Customer Services System will be a significant foreign currency earner. The system, which has the doubtful distinction of being the world’s biggest civil computing project, costing an estimated UKP700m, has been beset with problems since its inception five years ago and while Spackman admitted that all has not been rosy in the CSS garden he claims that the system is now mature enough for export. The system is designed to field all customer enquiries, ranging from billing to maintenance and repair, from a single integrated system. The original plan to base the system on one physical integrated database has been significantly modified and Spackman confirmed that the emphasis now is on communications. The main CSS system will interconnect with a number of satellite systems hosting related customer facilities. British Telecom’s decision last month to make CSS compatible with the Open Systems Interconnection communications standards opens up procurement options for future satellite systems. The bulk of the system is hosted on IBM 3090 mainframes but Telecom has said that it intends to link its nascent finance system based on ICL kit at a future date. Telecom talked during the development with regional Bell companies Nynex and Bell Atlantic who have also developed systems for customer services. In functions such as control of repair and installation, its rivals still have an edge, Telecom concedes, but maintains that its system wins on direct dealing with customers.

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