Nav Canada expands MPLS network to 20 new locations

Nav Canada is expanding its multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network to an additional 20 remote offices across Canada to increase bandwidth and improve file-sharing capabilities.

Headquartered in Ottawa, Nav Canada provides air traffic control, flight information, weather briefings, aeronautical information services, airport advisory services and electronic aids to navigation to airports across the country. The expansion is part of an ongoing multi-year, multi-million dollar contract that Nav Canada has with telecom provider MTS Allstream. MTS Allstream has been working with Nav Canada for more than seven years, said Eric Fletcher, senior vice-president of marketing, enterprise solutions, MTS Allstream.

“This is an extension of the services we sell to Nav Canada,” said Fletcher. “We’ve worked with them to build a solution to expand an IP-based solution.”

By year-end, Nav Canada hopes to increase bandwidth on its employee Intranet that connects remote communities across Canada to Nav Canada’s more central sites from the current speed of between 56 to 128 kilobits per second (kbps) to 256 kbps. The sites that are being converted include Castelgar, Churchill, Nanaimo, Peace River, Port Hardy, Smithers, Whitecourt, Williams Lake, Sandspit, High Level and Lloydminster Flight Service Stations (FSS).

“This is a support function in terms of Nav Canada employees sharing information between each other on the administrative side to expediently and efficiently increase the capacity for us to send larger files to and from remote sites,” said Louis Garneau, Nav Canada spokesperson.

Under the contract, MTS Allstream will provide additional IP services including upgrading most of its Area Control Centres (ACC) and several airport control towers and FSSes to an Ethernet-based access solution. MTS Allstream is also providing managed Wide Area Network (WAN) service to manage Nav Canada’s router equipment.

“It gives them the opportunity to put a platform in place that will allow them to release new applications,” said MTS Allstream’s Fletcher. “It will potentially set them up for real time applications over an IP fabric.”

These applications could include IPSec and SSL VPN services, Citrix-based applications, network monitoring, remote branch office tools and central corporate e-mail as opposed to Nav Canada’s current distributed e-mail environment, according to Gilles St-Jean, manager, network and firewall services at Nav Canada. St-Jean said in an e-mail: “Voice over IP is not in our plan at the moment. We will also look at leveraging our new NCI infrastructure to centralize some of our corporate IT services like e-mail.”

On the operational side of its business, Nav Canada announced on Tuesday that it will purchase 103 new Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) units from U.K.-based Fernau Avionics for $15 million to replace 100 DMEs purchased between 1970 and 1984 over a three-year period, starting next May. The extra three units will be used for testing purposes. Nav Canada currently operates 130 DMEs across Canada, which support flights en route and approach and landing near airports.

“There will be less maintenance for these and fewer breakdowns because they are newer systems,” said Ron Singer, Nav Canada spokesperson.

The terminal DMEs are situated near the runway and are used by pilots to determine how far away the aircraft is from the ground, explains Kevin Kearns, managing director, Fernau Avionics Ltd.

“There’s a little transponder inside of the aircraft that sends a signal to the ground,” said Kearns. “It’s kind of like an echo if you’re in a valley, the longer it takes to come back the bigger it is.”

There are also en route DMEs, which serve as electronic mileposts that tell pilots how far away they are from it, Kearns added.

The legacy units used analog technology, which required more time to set up and repair, whereas the newer units are digital.

Nav Canada sent out a request for proposal several months ago and awarded the contract to navigational aids supplier, Fernau, which is a subsidiary of Oakville, Ont.-based Glendale International Corp.

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