Lots of excitement the first few years and then a heavy dose of reality

Communications & Networking is now entering its seventh year of publication.

It has felt like the after effects of a caffeine binge. First, the industry was in a state of euphoria. Then it was all gloom and doom. Recently, the atmosphere has been one of cautious optimism.

The launch of

C&N in January, 1998, happened to coincide with the launch of local competition in Canada. At the time, MetroNet and Fonorola (now part of Allstream and Call-Net Enterprises respectively), among the first of the competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) announced plans to launch local service.

Early in 1999, Forrester Research published a report recommending that carriers build networks based on IP that are capable of carrying both voice and data.

In May of that year, Telus Corp. announced it would build its own national fibre optic network in order to compete with Bell Canada in Ontario and Quebec. In the fall, satellite service provider Iridium filed for bankruptcy protection. In addition to mergers, acquisitions and heavy losses, two phenomena dominated the headlines in 2000: third-generation (3G) mobile technology and application service providers (ASPs). In 2000, Rogers and Microcell started their 3G trials, and Industry Canada auctioned off 40 MHz worth of spectrum. Hardly a month went by in 2000 without another company announcing its ASP strategy.

2001 saw the death of the CLEC. Axxent, C1, Norigen and others closed up shop. Disaster recovery and network availability became a major topic of discussion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The following year, wireless carriers started to introduce their “”2.5G”” services, such as 1XRTT and general packet radio services (GPRS). The major competitive telecom firms, including Call-Net and AT&T Canada (now Allstream) got a new lease on life as bondholders agreed to convert their debt to equity.

Over the past year, the major stories have been IP telephony and Wi-Fi – not the technologies themselves but the extent to which they’re being implemented. 802.11 was mentioned in ’98 and ’99, but as a standard for wireless local-area networking.

This year, as Wi-Fi becomes more popular, you’ll see a lot of talk about roaming between carrier and 802.11 networks. Telus has started its real 3G network, and other carriers will follow suit. On the wired side, you’ll see more wide-area implementation of Ethernet. Over the last six years, there’s been a lot of hype and disappointment in the industry, with stock prices dominating headlines. The reality has been slow but sure evolution.

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