The demand for broadband has proven to be a goldmine for one utel. Less than two years after its launch, Telecom Ottawa has expanded its network and is acting as a carrier’s carrier for some major players. The telecommunications division of Hydro Ottawa currently has a grid of 400 km, up from its initial 170 km (NL, Nov. 6/01). It expects to grow to 850 km within the next year, making it one of the larger fibre operators in the area. The network extends across the entire greater Ottawa region, covering such former outlaying suburbs as Orleans, Fitzroy Harbour, Greeley and Richmond. The company manages to provide services without relying on Canada’s major ILEC. "We are a BFZ - a Bell-free zone," executive VP Dave Dobbin jokes. "We don’t rely on Bell for any of our facilities." The firm is a dominant player in the MUSH (municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals) sector. It has contracts to supply bandwidth to the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board, local police and fire departments, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, and the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation. The federal government is a client as well. But it also provides the backbone for Sprint Canada’s local service in the national capital. (It is expected that Sprint will return the favour by providing Telecom Ottawa with national connectivity.) Telecom Ottawa leases capacity to Telus Corp. and BCE Inc. properties Telesat Canada and Bell Nexxia. Dobbin is most pleased with fully automated safeguards on the utel’s network. The staff can track the entire network from their computers, negating the need for a truck roll. Telecom Ottawa has even put the software on home computers, so workers can respond to emergencies remotely from their residences without dashing into the office. The next-generation network is so sophisticated that the utel is able to administer all its business with a staff of 12. The company offers business clients three possible Internet services. Customers can order one, two or three megs from the utel at prices ranging from $995 to $1,995 per month. Those needing faster speeds can arrange to have up to 1,000 megs for prices to be negotiated. Telecom Ottawa also allows its clients to access its network when the grid is not operating at peak levels. The variable capacity is up to 10 megs and the utel does not charge throughput rates for the service. The company currently operates eight POPs throughout the Ottawa area. Dobbin expects that number to grow to 13 by mid-2004. Fibre and radioWhile the Telecom Ottawa network is predominantly fibre, the firm does have a wireless component. It is deploying wireless links from DragonWave Inc. of Ottawa to extend its reach. Dobbin explains there are three primary reasons for using RF technology. "The first is when it’s too expensive to deploy fibre. That’s mostly in rural areas," he notes. "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." Dobbin says Telecom Ottawa will only use radios when cost prevents fibre lays, noting that it is more advantageous to stay with a fibre rollout. In 2001, Telecom Ottawa’s first year of operation, the utel brought in $3.6 million in revenues to parent Hydro Ottawa. Dobbin brags that the marketing staff far exceeded its initial sales goal, coming in at 272% of the target. For more details on Telecom Ottawa’s use of wireless technology, see the May 27/03 issue of NL affiliate publication Report on Wireless.