Look Communications focuses on wireless for SMBs

Look Communications Inc. Thursday said it will offer wireless Internet services to small businesses in the Toronto area from an equipment provider that is seeking a majority stake in the company.

Toronto-based Unique Broadband Systems Inc. (UBS) will provide a platform to deploy 1.5 Mbps symmetrical service and a 1.5 Mbps and 3.0 Mbps asymmetrical service. The first region to receive this service is Concord/Vaughan. Mississauga, Etobicoke, Brampton and Markham/Unionville/Richmond Hill will follow in roughly two-month increments.

“”Think of this as a DSL link or a dedicated T1 link,”” said Anthony Schultz, head of network planning and design at Look, who joined the company in August after working as a contract consultant with UBS. At the customer location there’s a receiving antenna, a transmitter and receiver and a modem. The modem then connects to a customer’s LAN, Schulz said. “”It’s wireless from the bay station to customer premise.””

Wireless Internet will become a staple for the company as it re-establishes itself following financial difficulties over the last few years, said Look CEO Michael Cytrynbaum. He was named to the position Thursday and served as interim CEO following the resignation of Paul Lamontagne in May.

“”I see that the company will be paying far more attention to Internet access on a wireless basis, particularly in areas where there are no alternatives or the alternatives aren’t meeting the requirements of perspective customers,”” said Cytrynbaum.

Last year, Look offered a wireline service called UltraFast across Southwest Ontario and in Montreal. In areas where both UltraFast and the wireless service are available, an upgrade path will be available to customers, said Cytrynbaum.

Look deployed UltraFast using its own technology, but went to UBS for wireless. UBS increased its stake in Look to 29.9 per cent in May with a view to increase that to a controlling share of 51 per cent pending regulatory approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Cytrynbaum said that UBS need not be Look’s sole equipment provider. “”We could go to anyone. This (wireless service) is an open standard, it’s not proprietary. It’s what they helped to put together for us and that’s why we’re fully capable of dealing with it on our own now,”” he said.

“”From the beginning, UBS has taken the position: ‘We want you to do what’s in the best interests of the company because we’re a significant investor.'””

UBS’s bid to control the company is the latest in a string of financial restructuring for Look Communications. In August 2001, BCE and Telesystem agreed to shoulder $98-million of Look’s debtload. The company filed for voluntary protection in September 2001.

At the time, Look officials said the company will focus on the small and medium enterprise space. That trend has continued through to its most recent wireless launch, though Cytrynbaum didn’t rule out selling the service to larger corporate customers.

“”The best way to change (the company) is to perform, and that’s the way I plan to change it,”” he said.

UBS is in the midst of its own restructuring process as it prepares to become the majority stakeholder in Look. Last week the company laid off 22 of its employees that work in its legacy equipment business, a reduction of 28 per cent.

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