Chatham finds Angel to meet high-speed access needs

The municipality of Chatham, Ont., has begun a project designed to bring wireless high-speed Internet to thousands of residential and business users using non-line-of-sight technology.

Local service provider Chatham Internet Access

(CIA) Wednesday said it had finished building the first of five bay stations using Angel, a broadband fixed wireless access product from Montreal-based SR Telecom that promises DSL-equivalent data rates and carrier-class voice services.

The project started almost a year ago when the municipal government in Chatham sent out a request for proposal that ultimately went to CIA. Wally Romansky, the service provider’s general manager, said there are an estimated 40,000 households in the Chatham-Kent area, about half of which have no access to high-speed services. The goal of the project is to bridge that gap, he said.

The two-year initiative will involve installing the Angel product at bay stations connected to five water towers in the region, something only made possible through the SR Telecom equipment, Romansky said.

“”If we would have planned this a couple of years ago, we would have had to use 27 towers to cover the community. That is not a scenario we really wanted to get involved in,”” he said. “”We’ve been dealing with line-of-sight products for six years. Trying to bring this number of customers on a line-of-sight system would have been very difficult.””

This marks the first Canadian deployment of the Angel system, which SR Telecom gained through its acquisition last year of San Jose, Calif.-based Netro Corp. in a US$112 million deal to expand its product portfolio.

Brownlee Thomas, an analyst with the Giga Information Group based in Montreal, said SR Telecom could become a natural competitor to Inukshuk Internet, the joint venture formed by NR Telecom, Microcell Communications and Allstream, which has also been creating a high-speed wireless network in remote parts of Canada.

“”There are some other tiny-tiny players, but SR Telecom has been very involved globally doing deployments of wireless local loop,”” she said. “”They’re just sort of bringing this home.””

Romansky said the Angel system was the first product he had seen using a licensed frequency, which meant CIA doesn’t have to worry about interference and can transmit more power to get a longer reach. He said it could take some time to reach the market penetration the firm is hoping for, but it expects at least 2,000 installations this year.

“”National statistics tell us that 30 per cent of the households that can get high-speed, have high-speed,”” he said. “”As long as you can price it competitively along with other services, they’ll go for it.””

The CIA service will cost $45 a month, including the receiver, Romansky said. The project is being funded by Industry Canada’s Broadband for Rural Northern Development (BRAND) initiative.

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