LCBO chooses GPRS to back up wireline network

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is replacing a patchwork of older communications networks for point-of-sale processing at its 600 stores, moving to Rogers Communications Inc.‘s cable and wireless networks and a unique use of that company’s cellular network to back up wired connections.

The government-run LCBO, which has a monopoly on liquor sales in the province and also sells beer and wine, previously used an assortment of connections provided mainly by Bell Canada, the major telephone company serving Ontario, said Gary Ramsay, director of applications systems.

Debit and credit card authorizations were done over Bell’s Datapac 3201 service, while the main store networks used an assortment of connections in different locations. Many stores had Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines, but some relied on dial-up lines and the LCBO was also experimenting with Internet Protocol Virtual Private Networks (IP VPNs) in a few stores, Ramsay said.

The main store networks are used for all communications with head office, said Ramsay.

The older connections were “very stable, but slow,” Ramsay said, and Bell has said more than once that it would discontinue the Datapac service at some point. Also, he said, the LCBO believed there was an opportunity to save money by choosing a newer technology.

The LCBO also wanted to deal with one prime contractor rather than working with multiple service providers, Ramsay said. Although Bell provided the majority of the connections, Ramsay noted that when small local and regional operators are taken into account there are about 17 telcos in Ontario, and the LCBO was dealing with multiple providers.

After a tender process, the LCBO chose Rogers to provide a fully managed IP VPN service to all its stores. This service will handle all networking functions, including debit and credit authorization, he said. Pilots began last fall, Ramsay said, and the network has now been rolled out to most LCBO stores across the province.

The network was installed in several of the province’s busiest liquor stores in time for the holiday season in December, and LCBO officials said it helped handle higher sales volumes and improve response time for placing orders and online product searches.

Rogers has its own fibre backbone, and where it has a local coaxial cable network for cable television service it uses those facilities to serve the LCBO stores, said Randy Reynolds, president of Rogers Business Solutions. In some other areas Rogers operates its own Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service over local telephone companies’ local loops, and where it does not have that service it is reselling the telcos’ DSL services, Reynolds said.

Rogers is also using the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network that powers its cellular telephone services to provide a wireless backup to the wireline service. “If the transmission through the main network is lost, it’ll automatically switch to an edge device using our wireless network,” Reynolds explained. “We expect to get very high reliability.”

Reynolds believes Rogers has scored a first with this use of GPRS as a backup to wireline network.

Ramsay said the network installation has gone smoothly. “You can’t do it as quick as you want to and you spend more time in the planning process than you would think you would have to,” he said, but there have been no significant glitches.

The two companies have signed a three-year contract that provides for Rogers to monitor and manage the network after installing it. They would not be specific about the value of the contract, but Reynolds said it is “in the range of, oh, call it $2 to $7 million.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

Rogers has its own fibre backbone, and where it has a local coaxial cable network for cable television service it uses those facilities to serve the LCBO stores, said Randy Reynolds, president of Rogers Business Solutions. In some other areas Rogers operates its own Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service over local telephone companies’ local loops, and where it does not have that service it is reselling the telcos’ DSL services, Reynolds said.

Rogers is also using the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network that powers its cellular telephone services to provide a wireless backup to the wireline service. “If the transmission through the main network is lost, it’ll automatically switch to an edge device using our wireless network,” Reynolds explained. “We expect to get very high reliability.”

Reynolds believes Rogers has scored a first with this use of GPRS as a backup to wireline network.

Ramsay said the network installation has gone smoothly. “You can’t do it as quick as you want to and you spend more time in the planning process than you would think you would have to,” he said, but there have been no significant glitches.

The two companies have signed a three-year contract that provides for Rogers to monitor and manage the network after installing it. They would not be specific about the value of the contract, but Reynolds said it is “in the range of, oh, call it $2 to $7 million.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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