Veteran high-tech mogul Terry Matthews said Thursday he is investing the resources of his holding company in a centre that will jointly develop Internet protocol-based products and services with Bell Canada.
Matthews – whose Wesley Clover includes the firms Mitel, March Networks, New Heights and Ubiquity – participated in an event which was teleconferenced live from the Advanced Solutions Innovation Centre, located near Bell’s office in Kanata outside Ottawa. Bell has opened similar centres, including one focused on wireless technologies last year.
In place of a traditional ribbon-cutting, the partners opened the network by having key executives log on to a Mitel Navigator phone that was running March Networks secure video software and Ubiquity Session Initiation Protocol software over Bell’s network.
Matthews contrasted the power of Bell’s broadband network and the narrowband capabilities the industry was accustomed to when he founded his first companies.
“It’s not always on when you pick up the phone. It has some funny parameters. If one switching node is destroyed it keeps transmitting around it,” he said. “I’ve spent almost no time at the layers. I am almost run ragged talking to integrators, providers, customers, about ways they use this stuff for meaningful, tangible business benefit.”
Bell Canada president of small and medium business Karen Sheriff said the centre is not a legal joint venture but a partnership in application development employing eight employees as well as a number of part-time staff. About half a dozen projects will likely be under development at any one time, she said, and the centre could expand to handle double that if necessary. The centre is aimed at creating IP-based products and services for industry verticals. Matthews said prime candidates include retail, health care and transportation.
“It does take a couple of million dollars, maybe a little more, to get a company like this up and running,” Sheriff said. The revenue for projects will be split between Bell and Wesley Clover based on their contributions to the original intellectual property, she said.
Since selling Newbridge to Alcatel in 2000, Matthews said he has focused all his investment activity on applications that sit on top of IP broadband. What seemed like overcapacity in such network infrastructure is now paying off for customers, Matthews added.
“There were times when I was a little nervous when I saw the amount of spending going on,” he admitted. “Numbnuts kept signing these big fat cheques. The truth is, the first broadband access networks that get to be put in, were put in over the summer of 2000.”
Companies are already becoming accustomed to broadband, Sheriff added, but they want to do more with it.
“The applications aren’t there,” she said. “That’s the nurturing, that’s the investment, that’s the growth that we need to see.”
Industry Canada Assistant Deputy Minister Michael Binder, who attended Thursday’s launch, said the centre is an example of the kind of R&D needed to keep up with U.S. efforts to tap IT markets in China, India and Brazil.
“I don’t think the sector gets the respect it deserves,” he said. “People talk about the next big thing, things in biotech or nanotech, but the growth is here.”