Cisco tapped for Alberta’s ambitious SuperNet

Kaulin Melnyk has every reason to sound nervous and paranoid, but he doesn’t.

The major account manager for Cisco Systems Inc. is involved with the SuperNet project in Alberta,

and according to him “every rural area and school and hospital and college and library is watching this very keenly because they want to know when they’re going to be hooked up.”

The goal of SuperNet is to connect all universities, school boards, libraries, hospitals, provincial government buildings and regional health authorities throughout the province via a high-speed network. It also aims to guarantee businesses and residences in 422 communities will have high-speed Internet access. The project, first announced in 2000, has been budgeted for $193 million and is expected to take three years to complete.

Cisco is building the multi-protocol label switching network for the province-wide project. Most recently the San Jose, Calif.-based company was selected to install its ONS 15454 SONET multiservice platform.

Ian Seenandan is an optical network engineer with Axia SuperNet Ltd. which is building the IP network outside the 27 base communities. He says the 15454 was chosen as the network backbone for geographical reasons.

“The geography of our build is one of the main reasons why Cisco was chosen,” Seenandan says. “Most optical networks right now are either metro or long haul, and we’re in between. We’re not going trans-Canada, but we’re not just feeding the city either. So our design was a really good fit for what the Cisco product could give us.”

“It’s a combination of both: it has metro components and it has long-haul components. We need to find all the pieces of the puzzle that tie those two together seamlessly and, obviously, cost effectively,” adds Melnyk.

Connecting all the pieces is a daunting challenge if you consider 8,410 kilometres of fibre will be laid by the time the project is done. Melnyk says connecting so many remote communities is a daunting task and one nobody involved can hide from.

The fact this is a public sector initiative has placed everyone involved in the limelight, according to Melnyk, and groups keep phoning to find out when they’ll be online. Despite the scrutiny and interest, he says all you can do is go about your work.

“We still have to be careful and make sure we engineer and provide the best possible network on our timelines. People are watching very carefully,” he says. “We’re going ahead, we’re on time and we’re on budget, so that’s a good sign.”

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