Fixed wireless becomes diamond firm’s best friend

The goal was to create a broadband communications link from an office outside Toronto to a remote site in northern Ontario that will eventually be the first Canadian diamond mine outside the Northwest Territories. At which end was it difficult to find a way of connecting to the Internet?


you thought it was the remote diamond mining site, think again. The options for connecting an office of global engineering firm AMEC Americas in an Oakville, Ont., business park were surprisingly limited. AMEC and partner De Beers Canada of Toronto settled on a fixed wireless connection provided by TeraGo Networks Inc. of Toronto.

The mine site near James Bay, known as Victor Project, uses a satellite connection provided by Infosat Canada, said Oleg Khaev, senior network administrator at De Beers Canada.

Khaev explained that AMEC is providing engineering services to De Beers for the Victor project, some De Beers staff are working at AMEC’s Oakville office, and it was essential to have high-speed communication from the remote mine site to AMEC. The companies decided to set up a virtual private network (VPN) to provide secure communication via the Internet. A T1 line already links AMEC’s Oakville location to De Beers in Toronto, he said, but using this to carry the sizeable amount of VPN traffic would have overloaded the T1, and installing a second T1 would have cost too much.

“”There is no DSL provider at Oakville,”” Khaev said. “”I was surprised myself to see that, but that’s the fact.”” And Kevin Drolet, division manager for IS operations at AMEC in Oakville, said Cogeco Cable Inc. “”wanted humongous dollars to bring in a cable connection, because this area was never planned for cable.”” AMEC is located in Winston Park, a business park in southeastern Oakville.

The wireless connection was “”the only way to get it done quickly and the only way to get it done for the site,”” said Drolet. The connection had to be set up in a hurry last December, he said, and TeraGo was able to get it up and running within about a week of AMEC placing the order.

Now that the wireless connection is in place, Khaev said, staff at the Oakville office also use it for ordinary Web browsing.

Bryan Boyd, president and chief executive of TeraGo, said urban locations without DSL service are rare, though not unheard of. He said TeraGo focuses its sales efforts on areas where customers have limited broadband choices, but he said a number of customers have switched from DSL services provided by major telecommunications carriers to TeraGo’s fixed wireless service.

The wireless service has an advantage over DSL because it is symmetrical, providing the same amount of capacity in both directions, whereas DSL provides more downstream than upstream capacity. Businesses’ needs for upstream capacity is increasing as they send e-mail with large attachments and run e-commerce operations, rather than simply browsing the Web for information, Boyd said.

TeraGo also touts the reliability of its service, offering customers service level agreements guaranteeing 99.9 per cent uptime.

Drolet said AMEC has found its connection highly reliable. “”There’s been very few outages that I can recall.”” He said TeraGo warns AMEC of weather problems, such as heavy snow, that might affect service, but so far there have been no weather-related problems.

The connection is also highly secure, Khaev said. On top of TeraGo’s proprietary encryption, De Beers and AMEC have added triple DES.

The VPN provides 1.5-megabit-per-second communication between the Victor site and Oakville. Boyd noted that TeraGo can provide connections at up to one gigabit. AMEC and De Beers at other locations can also tap into the VPN via any Internet connection, Drolet noted.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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