Manitoba Telecom rolls out province-wide VPN

Manitoba Telecom Services is helping the province follow the trend towards a single network infrastructure for voice, data and video services.

The company is building a province-wide IP-based multiprotocol label switching (MPLS)

network that will bring virtual private network (VPN) services to 100 government offices in Winnipeg as well as 85 other locations across Manitoba. The company said it has chosen Cisco Systems routers and switches for the two-year project.

Kelvin Shepherd, Manitoba Telecom Services’ (MTS) vice-president of network service and chief technology officer, said the company won all three parts under the government’s request for proposal, including the backbone network, the managed services and the customer premise hardware components. MTS had previously worked with the provincial government in supplying legacy frame relay and private line connections.

“”I think what they saw was certainly a dramatic sort of increase in demand from their clients for bandwidth,”” he said. “”I think also they saw some opportunities as they went ahead to have a more consolidated network to handle more of their requirements, rather than building separate networks for different applications.””

Most Canadian provinces are thinking the same way, said Andrew Sage, Cisco Systems of Canada’s director of marketing.

“”If you unify your voice, data and video on a single network infrastructure, then you drive down the cost of operating multiple networks,”” he said. “”At this moment in time, every province is operating a data network and a voice network. Within those data networks and voice networks, there are also probably multiple networks.””

Saskatchewan has an initiative called CommunityNet that is somewhat comparable to the Manitoba project, Shepherd said, where a single network will serve multiple government requirements. Alberta’s SuperNet project is more famous in terms of the size and what might be included in it. Shepherd said Manitoba is watching SuperNet closely to see if it will eventually need to offer something of the same scope.

“”They certainly see it expanding that connectivity agenda out to places like schools and libraries,”” he said. “”In terms of wider connectivity to, say, broadband deployment to communities for high-speed Internet, I don’t know that that’s really on the agenda right now.

Sage agreed that SuperNet is still largely unproven, but that doesn’t mean other governments don’t share its goals.

“”SuperNet was very aggressive, so I think the province of Alberta is going to see the dividends of that before some others do,”” he said. “”Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. have all looked at that as a model . . .what Manitoba is doing is on exactly the same continuum is what Alberta did. They’ll end up at the same place.””

“”They see it as a foundation for more e-services to their constituents,”” he said. “”Basic things like filling out a licence renewal through to much more complex things like zoning or building permits.””

Shepherd said MTS has negotiated a deployment schedule with government that will see three major SONET IP rings included in the network. Brandon will be among the first locations connected, but he said the project team will be working quickly to bring other offices into it over the next six months.

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