Telecom Ottawa Ltd. is aggressively expanding the reach of its broadband communications network to rural and remote communities throughout eastern Ontario with the use of high-capacity wireless technology. Since inking an agreement with DragonWave Inc. last year ( RoW Update, Dec. 16/02), the city's broadband utility company has deployed several wireless links in the rural areas surrounding the greater City of Ottawa. Dave Dobbin, executive VP at municipally owned Telecom Ottawa, couldn't provide an exact figure as to the number of installations, but estimates that there are approximately 10 to 12 in various areas. Nor would he provide any projections on how many more Telecom Ottawa plans to install within the next 12 months. Dobbin cites three reasons for deploying wireless equipment. "The first is when it's too expensive to deploy fibre. That's mostly in rural areas," Dobbin explains to Report on Wireless. "The next is when the customer needs service yesterday. It'll take us a day at most to install the wireless connection and then replace it with fibre later. We also have a couple of clients who need a backup system if their fibre fails." The utility company was vying for a contract to provide broadband access to a commercial customer in a rural area and needed a system robust enough to handle its customers' particular needs. It was a chance meeting that the companies began working together, Dobbin recalls. "We had trialed a number of unlicensed wireless radios looking for a solution and we happened upon DragonWave through the course of the trials through a local introduction. They said 'why don't you try ours?' We tried it and it worked," Dobbin says. Telecom Ottawa gives DragonWave a ringing endorsement for its AirPair wireless equipment after undertaking an exhaustive search for equipment that could accommodate its clients' needs. Dobbin explains that the AirPair radios have worked unbelievably well and haven't yet suffered one outage. "We're very happy with them. I'd give DragonWave a glowing recommendation. We have yet to have a blip with their service," he says. Asked to quantify the cost savings in deploying the wireless network as opposed to having to lay fibre to the rural areas surrounding Ottawa, Dobbin says that's almost impossible to answer. "We only deploy radios in situations where it would be too expensive to deploy fibre. So clearly, it's always more advantageous. We prefer fibre because that's what we do. If we can put fibre in, we're going to put fibre in," he says. In addition to the rollout of wireless equipment, Telecom Ottawa is fast becoming one of the larger fibre-optic network operators in the region. The Ottawa utility company, or utel, has seen its network expand from 170 km since it was founded in 2001 to approximately 400 km today. Dobbin expects to more than double that to 850 km by mid-2004.