BT Group hopes to recycle some of its expertise from building a next-generation all-internet protocol (IP) network in the UK by offering consultancy services to network operators in other countries.

The new business unit, 21C Global Venture, which is named after the operator's 21st Century Network (21CN) project, was announced during a press conference at the International Telecommunication Union Telecom World conference and exhibition in Hong Kong.

The 21CN project is one of the most ambitious network overhauls of its kind in the world. BT is replacing its 16 legacy voice and data networks with a new network built entirely on IP technology.

Last month, BT connected the first 100 consumers to the next-generation network (NGN). By the end of the decade, the operator aims to have the bulk of the country's 30 million lines converted to IP.

"We have acquired substantial know-how in planning, designing and building a NGN over the past few years," said Paul Reynolds, chief executive officer of BT Wholesale. "We can use this experience to help other operators around the world with their NGN plans."

The new unit will compete with numerous consultancies and equipment manufacturers also vying for a chunk of the emerging NGN market.

It will draw on a pool of in-house experts, including the engineers that designed the UK network, according to Karsten Lereuth, president of the Global Telecom Markets unit of the BT Global Services division. "We will pull in people from all of our units, depending on the area of expertise required by a customer, and will provide local support," Lereuth said. "

BT Wholesale has around 500 customers in more than 100 countries, generating nearly half of the group's total revenue, according to Reynolds.

In Honk Kong, BT also announced a maintenance service contract with newly merged Alcatel-Lucent SA. As part of the contract, worth US$350 million (£177m), Alcatel-Lucent will offer the operator a single point of contact for equipment maintenance and spare parts management.

Telecom World runs through Friday.