A U.S. firm that develops software to manage broadband infrastructure is aiming to take advantage of the wave of municipal Wi-Fi deployments in Canada.
Worthington, Ohio-based Mentorgen develops operational support systems (OSS) software for telcos, u-telcos (utilities that provide telco services), and government clients. The firm recently opened an office in Bolton, Ont., to sell its OSS software and services, which include sales force automation, customer care and billing management, to potential Canadian clients.
“There’s a lot of activity (in the U.S.),” said Tony DeLiberato, Mentorgen’s vice-president of corporate development, who has been tapped to head the sales office in Ontario. “We’ve just decided to look north and look at the opportunities in the Canadian market.”
Wireless networks deployed an the municipal level are a target for the company’s software, he said.
“There are a number of greenfield opportunities that are opening up that require a Wi-Fi or a Wi-Max solution. One of the key things when you’re building those types of services organizations is, how quickly can you turn up services? That’s what the software platform does for them,” said DeLiberato.
There have been some recent examples of wireless networks available in a citywide area. One of the the first in Canada is the Fred eZone, in Frederiction, which has been available for several years. Last month, the City of Waterloo, Ont., established a Wi-Fi network covering a 1.5-sq-km area in its business district. The municipality isn’t directly providing the network – it’s made available through local provider Atria Networks – but is endorsing it.
DeLiberato is hopeful that future municipal rollouts in Canada will consider Mentorgen. “The software plays well in that space, because it’s a fully integrated package that will allow a city or municipality to quickly bring up all the provisioning and billing (management),” he said.
“I think we can assume that there’s a market for (OSS software),” said Michael Rozender, principal of Oakville, Ont., firm Rozender Consultants International. “A lot of service providers are fairly new at provisioning, especially doing things like providing bandwidth on demand. A lot of (my) clients are saying they’d like that: I need 10 megs today, tomorrow I need 100.”
Rozender cautioned that any U.S. firm looking to enter Canada has to do its homework, given the different regulatory requirements up here.
But the job may be tougher than that, said Roberta Fox, principal at Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont. There are already by half a dozen OSS vendors operating in Ontario, many of them U.S. firms that have already established satellite offices in Canada.
“I think the Canadian market is already well served by multiple players. Unless Mentorgen has something faster, cheaper, better . . . I think trying to penetrate Canada is going to be a long, expensive sales cycle,” she said.
Outside of municipal W-Fi deployments, DeLiberato would like to sell his product into utilities companies that are planning to offer broadband over power line. That type of broadband infrastructure is still in its infancy. One of the earliest trials of the technology was conducted by PUC Telecom Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie.
Again, it might be a difficult sale for Mentorgen, said Fox, since utilities are taking their own legacy OSS applications and “tweaking it for telecom, because they haven’t got the funding to install a separate telco platform. They’re all taking their existing kilowatt billing systems and saying, ‘OK, we’ll bill in kilopackets.’”
DeLiberato said he plans to start small with the Canadian operation of Mentorgen, with an initial sales staff of five or six in the first year.
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