Yellowknife gets high-speed access through MCS

Inukshuk Internet Inc. has announced the first commercial deployment of Multipoint Communications Services (MCS) broadband wireless communications technology in Canada Wednesday, working with SSI Micro Ltd. of Yellowknife, N.W.T., to

offer high-speed Internet access to business and residential customers throughout the territorial capital.

Inukshuk – a subsidiary of Montreal-based Microcell Telecommunications Inc. – has licenses to offer MCS services in all Canadian provinces and territories except Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Dean Proctor, vice-president of Microcell, said the company plans further MCS launches, but did not name locations. The Yellowknife launch is “”a huge step forward in implementing our vision for Inukshuk,”” he said.

Jeff Philipp, president and chief executive of SSI, said his company has been testing the MCS technology for about a month and a half. The system currently can reach about 90 per cent of homes in Yellowknife, he said, and will reach the rest as soon as one more access point is added. Service reaches about 20 miles outside the city, he added.

Inukshuk’s MCS offering is a non-line-of-sight technology using the licensed 2,500- to 2,596-megahertz frequency band. Because it operates on a licensed frequency, Philipp said, MCS can operate at higher power than the non-licensed WiFi standard often used for Internet access hotspots, and therefore can deliver more range.

Alan Ross, a beta tester of the SSI offering who was present at the press conference announcing it, said he has tested the wireless service alongside Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and found it substantially faster for uploading data and somewhat faster at its peak speed than DSL.

The MCS modems are capable of download speeds up to four megabits and upload speed to one Mbps, Philipp said, but SSI currently limits them to between one and 1.5 megabits for downloading and 256 Kbps for uploading.

The operators demonstrated the system by displaying a live video feed from a truck moving around Yellowknife, with a simultaneous feed from a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver on the truck showing its route and a brief voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) conversation.

Company officials said the network can be used for videoconferencing and distance learning as well as standard Internet access.

Residential service will cost $59.95 per month, including the specialized wireless modem, and is available now from SSI, Philipp said. Inukshuk is operating the network for SSI as a wholesaler. NextNet Wireless, Inc., of Minneapolis, is supplying the network equipment and customers’ modems.

SSI is one of the larger Internet service providers in Canada’s north, operating in several communities in the three territories and northern Quebec. Philipp said the company plans to offer MCS in other locations, but would not name them.

Speaking at the press conference, Joe Handley, premier of the Northwest Territories, said the new service will have “”tremendous impact”” for Yellowknife, and will help businesses there “”compete on an equal footing with people all over the world.”” Gordon van Tighem, mayor of Yellowknife, said it was “”very exceptional”” to see a new technology rolled out first in the city. “”Remote spaces create worldwide solutions,”” he observed.

Tom Elliott, vice-president of consulting at Strategy Analytics, a Newton, Mass., research firm, said there is renewed interest in fixed wireless technology for residential Internet access lately, after some high-profile U.S. projects failed. “”It’s not actually sweeping the globe or anything,”” Elliott said, “”but you certainly hear more about it.”” He attributed the resurgence to several factors including declining costs and more robust non-line-of-sight technology.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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