Extending broadband to the arctic and DSL black holes

Canada is one of the most wired nations on the planet — not because of too many trips to Tim Horton’s, but because of extensive networks of copper and fibre, which are as cheap as they are plentiful.

In spite of this glut of wired service, fixed wireless vendors and service providers are

finding several profitable niches in Canada, as well as abroad. In addition to remote areas without wired service of any kind, digital subscriber line (DSL) “”black holes”” provide a market for fixed wireless carriers offering broadband service.

In countries like Canada and the U.S., carriers will typically deliver DSL to only 80 per cent of their customers, because the distance from the central office to the customer is too great or the equipment is too old, says Remy Brodeur, director of marketing for Montreal-based SR Telecom Inc., which makes wireless local loop equipment.

According to a report delivered in 2001 to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), about six million Canadians live in communities without high-speed access. In the United States, estimates of voice penetration range between 92 and 94 per cent. All told, the continent provides a significant opportunity for fixed wireless vendors. According to a report released by Mountain View, Calif.-based Frost & Sullivan, unlicensed fixed wireless broadband service revenue in North America worldwide is expected to climb from US$238 million in 2001 to US$890 million in 2008 — a compound annual growth rate of 20.7 per cent. And according to Datacomm Research Company, approximately 27 per cent of business users are expected to use wireless for their broadband needs.

Vendors target those communities where the provision of fixed wireless service is likely to be financially viable. “”You just look at the map and try to find markets that have a decent household — typically lots of teenagers,”” says Charles Brown, vice-president sales and marketing for Toronto-based WaveRider Communications Inc. “”Especially lucrative are bedroom communities that haven’t been wired yet.

Typical vendors in this space include Platinum Communications and Storm Internet. Based in Calgary, Platinum serves some of the bedroom communities surrounding Calgary, including Springbank, Bearspaw DeWinton and Okotoks. Based in Ottawa, Storm serves about 50 communities in the Ottawa valley and eastern Ontario, a region covering about 35,000 square kilometres.


Another potential Canadian market, which vendors are just now starting to tap, is the arctic. Most of that region is not wired for either voice or data. Working with satellite carriers such as Telesat Canada, and using equipment from WaveRider, carriers like Ottawa-based RAMTelecom have provided high speed Internet services to communities like Baker Lake, Nunavut.

“”That’s a very good application because you don’t need any wired infrastructure to deliver high

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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