Alcatel to build microwave network for Telus Mobility

Telus Mobility said Wednesday it has chosen Alcatel for a three-year contract to build a backbone network infrastructure because it specializes in providing microwave

transmission equipment and has a good track record of supporting its products in Canada.

The wireless operator looked at the business-case justification of switching from monthly leasing of telco-owned T1 lines to developing its own microwave transmission network, explained Hilbert Chan, Telus Mobility’s vice-president of corporate engineering in Toronto.

Chan decided there would be “”a very decent return”” in making such a capital investment because it would dramatically reduce operational expenses and increase backbone capacity.

Microwave technology is “”a radio that basically only has a single beam or a couple of beams that go from one point to another point, and that beam’s in place of putting facilities into the ground,”” explained Geoff Cowan, executive vice-president of sales at Alcatel Canada in Vancouver.

It has shown “”a high degree of reliability in the Canadian or North American environment for quite some time”” and has been used throughout the world for similar applications by many cellular carriers, added Chan.

But although most mobile carriers in North America are installing this system in pockets across provinces and states, “”it doesn’t always pay to build your own,”” cautioned Cowan. He said it can be slightly more expensive to build a microwave infrastructure in remote areas like Thunder Bay, Ont. in which towers must be built or construction must be done on rooftops. “”But I think overall, it would probably be on par.””

Traditionally, there is a great deal of resource sharing in the wireless space because it’s a very expensive, very facilities-based, very footprint-dependent business,”” said Cowan.

Telus Mobility will focus its deployment of the Alcatel-engineered strategy in Ontario and parts of Quebec, said Chan. The microwave backbone will be confined to central Canada because Telus, the land-line parent company, has costly facilities in Alberta and B.C., he explained.

Chan does, however, have the flexibility to roll out microwave “”wherever I see fit,”” he said. For example, Telus land-lines may be cost prohibitive in some areas of B.C. and Alberta, in which case a microwave solution will be the answer, he said.

For Alcatel Canada, the Telus Mobility contract win is “”one of the largest microwave networks that’s being built in the last number of years in Canada,”” said Cowan, who would not disclose the value. “”This is a very good, significant win for Alcatel Canada.””

Cowan is reluctant to say the economic downturn stopped this kind of infrastructure expansion, which was rampant during the tech boom. He says the move simply coincides with Telus Mobility’s plans for growth particularly in the eastern part of the country.

In recent years, Alcatel Canada has gained smaller pieces of business from utilities like BC Hydro, Cowan added.

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