The delay in the CRTC process to expand the local calling area (LCA) in Ottawa has opened the door for a small Ottawa company to offer free long-distance telephony from the various outlying parts of the city. OrbisTel recently registered with the commission as an LD reseller and last month began offering advertising-sponsored LD across the capital, its first telephony service.   For years now, people in Ottawa have complained that LD charges were levied when they called from one end of the metropolitan area to the other. Following the amalgamation of several suburbs into one large city a few years ago, the CRTC began investigating how to widen the LCA. It thought it had resolved that issue last year when it released Telecom Decision 2002-56, but two resellers from British Columbia have filed a review and vary application that is still before the commission (NL, July 28/03). That left an opening for OrbisTel. "I actually had someone I knew that lived in the Ottawa region and couldn’t call from one side of the city to the other (who) found it to be a burden," company president Patrick Vandal tells Network Letter. "So me and a partner, Chris Powers, came up with a solution to that by making it free by listening to an ad." The LD service began in early September, and the company has been able to capture about 150 subscribers. OrbisTel hopes to sign up between 20,000 and 40,000 people in the first year. Vandal assumes the delay caused by the R&V filing could mean his LD service will be able to operate for a year or more. Currently one local company is advertising its services with OrbisTel, with other deals in the process of being finalized. He expects new clients will be announced shortly. Getting into telephony was not Vandal and Powers’ original intention. When they established the firm over a year ago, they concentrated on R&D. OrbisTel’s aim was to deliver advertising content to people over new technologies. Its business service sector handles message broadcasting, service hosting and a virtual call centre. The message broadcasting can be done via voice or text, over wireline or wireless phones.For residential customers, the company is offering a reminder service. Subscribers may enter notices of important events through the telephone or via the Internet. OrbisTel then phones the clients to remind them of the appointment. Future offerings include wake-up calls and stock market quotations. "Right now we’re just offering the reminders and the long distance," Vandal explains, "the wake up calls should be done within a couple of weeks and the stock quotes is upcoming in the next few months."The company is nothing if not lean. The staff consists of Vandal, Powers and a programmer. The president hopes to expand, both in Ottawa and beyond. Vandal wants to offer other telephony services in the Ottawa region, products that will have a longer shelf life than the free LD. He expects that, after the firm has learned the ropes in Ottawa, it will move nationwide. He hopes to move into other major centres across the country, providing the same mix of telephony and other services. By entering the LD resale market, OrbisTel joins a growing list of competitors. The CRTC’s registry of resellers runs 92 pages and includes major ILECs such as Bell Canada and Telus Enterprises Inc., CLECs Allstream Corp. and Sprint Canada Inc., national players YAK Communications Inc., as well as regional and local outfits.