DSL wasn’t deemed suitable for online prescription drug retailer

When MediPlan Health Consulting Inc. was looking for a location for its drug dispensary in Manitoba, politicians from the Town of Niverville were hoping to attract the firm to their community, located about 30 km south of Winnipeg.

Minnedosa, Man.-based MediPlan relies heavily on networking

technology because it sells prescription drugs over the Internet to American customers who are shopping for cheaper medication.

So when MediPlan IT staff found out its only option for high-speed networking in Niverville was digital subscriber line (DSL), they “”basically walked away from the table,”” said Carl Strempler, MediPlan’s director of information technology.


Manitoba Telecom Services offers DSL service in Niverville, a town of about 2,300. But DSL does not suit the requirements of MediPlan, which needs a wide-area network that can carry voice over IP and secure all traffic using IPSec, Strempler said.

In order to persuade MediPlan to set up shop, Niverville town officials decided to have a fixed wireless link installed in order to let MediPlan (and, potentially, other companies) get 100 Mbps connectivity to Winnipeg.

The town now has a 130-foot tower with an AirPair point-to-point wireless Ethernet radio, which is manufactured by Ottawa-based DragonWave Inc. The AirPair provides a link to the network operations centre of service provider Rainy Day Software Inc.

Brent Toderash, Rainy Day’s vice-president and chief operating officer, said Niverville town councillors approached his firm asking for the link because they wanted to improve service for corporations.

“”That had to address MediPlan’s problem,”” he said. “”At the same time, they said, ‘There may be other businesses besides MediPlan with similar problems. Let’s just address them all.'””

Rainy Day provides networking service between MediPlan’s corporate headquarters in Minnedosa (located about 30 km north of Brandon) and its Niverville dispensary. The AirPair fixed wireless technology links Niverville to Winnipeg, while Manitoba Hydro fibre optic cables provide the connection from Winnipeg to Minnedosa. A fixed wireless link provides the last mile link from the Manitoba Hydro wire in Minnedosa to MediPlan’s corporate headquarters.

Toderash said he chose DragonWave AirPair for the Niverville-to-Winnipeg link because the device works on licensed radio frequencies.

“”We were coming out of downtown Winnipeg, so I was a little nervous about the unlicensed frequencies,”” he said. “”I wanted to go licensed and wanted to go with something that was carrier-grade, low latency, high throughput, and that’s where we wound up with DragonWave.””

Licensed fixed wireless links cost more than unlicensed networks, but there is less chance of interference, said Wai Sing Lee, a Toronto-based industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. He added fixed wireless is more suitable than DSL in some rural areas because it can be hooked up more quickly for a lower price.

After installing the Niverville tower in May, Rainy Day expanded its fixed wireless coverage to the Ritchot and Tache rural municipalities (RMs), which are located immediately south and east of Niverville respectively.


“”It’s at a point where anyone in the (rural municipality) has wireless broadband available to them,”” Toderash said. “”Unlike with DSL, they don’t get told, ‘I’m sorry, you’re on the wrong side of the street,’ or ‘If only you were 500 metres in the other direction …’

Rainy Day now has seven fixed wireless towers — one in the town of Niverville and three each in Ritchot and Tache — in addition to the device on its network operations centre in Winnipeg.

Strempler said the voice quality is better than carrier-grade, and Toderash said MediPlan required latency of less than 80 milliseconds.

“”They’re seeing less than two (milliseconds of latency) and most of that is from the unlicensed link on the far end.””

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