News briefs-June 2006

An increasing number of Internet subscribers will be using wireless technologies for high-speed access, and this will probably be the only option for more than a million Canadians, according to a former head of a cellular carrier.

Andre Tremblay, a member of the federal Telecom Policy Review Panel who was chief executive officer of Microcell Telecommunications Inc., said 90 per cent of Canadians currently have broadband access.

At a Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association conference last month – dubbed “Work Live Play” – Tremblay said the telecom industry could provide broadband access to an additional five per cent of Canadians, while the remainder would need assistance from the government to connect to the Web at high speeds.

“We’re dealing with a million and a half Canadians here, and it seems to us in these remote communities, the solution will be wireless in most cases,” he said during a keynote address.

Tremblay said some broadband wireless service providers are also competing with digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable operators in major cities.

He said the Telecom Policy Review Panel recommended several changes to government policy on wireless carriers, including a prohibition on carriers entering into contracts with property owners giving them exclusive access to rooftops for their cellular base stations.

The panel said Canada should move to “market-based” regulations on the rights to buy or sell wireless spectrum.

The panel also recommended the foreign ownership restriction – which prohibits foreigners from owning more than 47 per cent of a carrier’s voting shares – should have a “public interest test,” and the current restrictions should be gradually lifted.

“Let’s deal with it in a phase approach where we can monitor our progress.”

He said telecom, banking and transportation are among the few industries in Canada with foreign ownership restrictions.

“The question in front of us was, if you open up foreign ownership, is it going to be to the net benefit of Canada?”

– Greg Meckbach

Education and R&D facilities in Quebec will be able to share their research over an optical network as the Reseau d’Informations Scientifiques due Quebec (RISQ) provides 10 Gigabit-per-second access among universities and colleges using equipment from Nortel Networks Corp.

The project, which is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of this year, will give users access to Gigabit Ethernet and 10 GigE capabilities via the Nortel Optical Multiservice Edge 6500, as well as managed wavelength services at up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

Dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) capabilities will enable RISQ to transmit up to 72 wavelengths of high bandwidth traffic at 10Gbps over a single fibre strand.

That’s a huge step forward for research computing, said Michel Vanier, RISQ’s general manager.

“We could have 36 10Gbps channels in parallel between Gatineau, Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City and we could dedicate those different wavelengths or channels to research projects,” he said.

RISQ plans to redo part of its optical transport network connecting the universities of McGill, Laval and Sherbrooke, and the universities of Quebec in Ottawa and Montreal, as well as several new school board facilities and colleges in the region. They will also connect to other world-class research networks.

The Nortel common photonic layer platform features reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexing (eROADM) capabilities, meaning organizations can add, remove and redirect network capacity on an as-needed basis.

Users will pretty much self-manage the service, as long as they don’t interfere with the needs of other users on the network, he said.

– Kathleen Sibley

The Royal Bank of Canada says it has its future bandwidth needs under control following the launch of a private high-speed optical network connecting key data centres through a Gigabit Ethernet transport system from Meriton Networks.

The bank’s network links its primary data centre in Toronto with another in Guelph, Ont., along with a data path running to its contact centre in Mississauga. The wavelength division multiplexing architecture includes Meriton’s 7200 optical switching platform, its 8600 network management system and its 8300 element management system, among other components.

RBC’s decision to set up the private optical network was in part a response to requests from a business unit dedicated to data storage, which was grappling with issues around Sarbanes-Oxley, e-mail journaling and other regulatory requirements, said Dominic Pare, the bank’s manager of WAN infrastructure.

“The water was building behind the dam,” he said. “It almost didn’t matter which (regulatory requirement) contributed to it the most, it all just started flowing,” he said.

WDM – which combines multiple optical carrier signals on a single fibre by using different wavelengths of light to carry different signals – is most commonly used by carriers to expand network capacity without laying more fibre. According to Meriton president and CEO Mike Pascoe, banks are the kind of enterprises that often face the same kind of bandwidth demands. In RBC’s case, he said the benefit comes from being able to provide user services more quickly.

“More often than not, carriers have an existing optical network. It’s scaling the existing network that’s expensive,” he said. “Adding nodes is quite a challenge.”

Meriton is trying to address that problem, Pascoe said, by using software to change things like an OC-48 line interface to Gigabit Ethernet, and using small form factor pluggable (SFP) interfaces and cards to add wavelengths. The products also use integrated wavelength switching, which reduces the need for more equipment.

Pare said by taking optical networking in-house rather than buying OC-48 capacity from carriers, the bank will save money and no longer have recurring monthly charges.

– Shane Schick

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