RBC adds bandwidth to remote bank machines

The Royal Bank of Canada Monday said it has reached an agreement with Allstream to upgrade its standalone bank machines nationwide.

The deal, which will affect the 1,900 automated banking machines (ABMs) that are not connected to an RBC branch, will provide the bank with more bandwidth which could be used to add more applications. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Currently, the standalone or “remote” ABMs use a Bell Canada multi-drop line with 2,400 bits per second. RBC recently issued a request for proposals to upgrade the network to all Canadian service providers and Allstream came back with the best offer, said Bob Matthews, RBC’s senior manager for telecom.

The Allstream upgrade will increase network speeds to 56K via a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) IP platform. The ABMs themselves will be also be replaced with NCR machines. Spokespeople from NCR were unavailable for comment at press time.

A small pilot project was introduced in December with half a dozen ABMs and the upgrade will begin in earnest next month. The rollout will take approximately 18 months, said Matthews.

While 56K may not sound very fast compared to broadband Internet connectivity, it is sufficient for most ABM applications, he added. “The application that uses these lines doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth at this point in time. Down the road (broadband) could be in the future for us, but right now, dial-up satisfies the business requirements.”

Matthews said he couldn’t elaborate on the types of ABM services RBC customers may see in the future, but noted that MPLS is becoming the connectivity standard of choice for the Canadian banking industry.

Chris Long, sales vice-president, central region for Allstream said that most Canadian banks are taking a wait-and-see attitude towards more advanced ABM applications. The ground is being broken in Europe, he said, where financial institutions are moving ahead more rapidly with application upgrades.

“You don’t see a lot in Canada, but if you look globally, you do see a lot of progressive banks or finance institutions have chosen to have a direct link-up with an actual live video feed,” said Long.

“They’d be able to connect up to a branch. A lot of the banks in Canada have the capability and strategy in place, but they often like to see other, more progressive markets roll things out and see how they go before they make a huge investment.”

Just over a year ago, Allstream signed a deal with Scotiabank to migrate its 1,050 branch locations to an MPLS IP network. ABMs in branches tend to enjoy slightly higher bandwidth than remote machines, said Long, because they can take advantage of on-site connectivity.

But, he said, the new remote RBC ABMs will have “sufficient bandwidth to roll out a variety of applications, if they choose to do so.”

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