Canada’s first experiment with powerline communications (PLC) is being tested in Sault Ste. Marie. Both the utel and the equipment supplier expect the technology to be embraced by many companies in this country. PUC Telecom, the service provider in the Soo, has linked with Amperion Inc. to roll out PLC in the northern Ontario city (NL Update, Feb. 9/04). The weather was a major factor determining the trial dates."We’ll cover three or four blocks and it’s essentially just to demonstrate that it’s snowball-proof," PUC Telecom GM Martin Wyant explains to Network Letter. "It works in Canada - it’s cold up here. If it works in Sault Ste. Marie, we’re pretty confident it’ll work in most spots up here." Full rollout in March Wyant expects that full rollout of the system will take place next month. The technology will be confined to the Sault Ste. Marie area, even though PUC has an agreement with O.N. Telcom to provide service to the entire Algoma district. PLC has long been heralded by utels as the next big thing. At the United Telecom Council’s (UTC) Canadian conference last year, Amperion’s VP of sales, marketing and business development said improvements to technology were imminent that would permit utels to offer Internet, voice and video (NL, Mar. 11/03). Jeff Tolnar has seen those changes come about. "We have deployed and proven our gen one product, and gen one has between 15 and 20 megabits on the backbone and the backbone is the power line itself," he tells NL. "Now gen one is primarily a broadband and utility applications platform. It can carry IP voice and gen two, which is in development stage right now, will have, we’re estimating 100 megabits of throughput on the backbone, so it’s a step up of five times on the backbone." Tolnar says the gen two product is in beta testing right now. Full rollout should occur early next year. Another facet of the agreement will see PUC working with other utels in Canada to promote Massachusetts-based Amperion’s technology. Tolnar expects the Canadian firm will take the lead in the transactions."PUC will be operating as a value-added partner. They will be right now one of our primary channels in Ontario," he says. "They are proactively making calls on different utilities and they’ll lead with the Amperion solution." Wyant concurs that it is a good arrangement for both sides."We are operating as a profitable utelco already, so we have that knowledge. And we’re going to be bringing a business case development knowledge, because that’s my background," he notes. "We’re not bringing the technical capability. That would be our intent, to take the lead on that. A good first step for us is going to be the UTC conference in Calgary." At last year’s UTC conference in Ottawa, Tolnar said Amperion was considering offering service to residential customers, while concentrating on small- and medium-sized companies. The firm’s strategy has stayed much the same. "The sweet spots so far have been suburban markets. Most of our customers, the network operator service providers, have been deploying in the suburban areas for residential," Tolnar reports. "I still think though that small business and medium business would really, really help the value proposition and help the economics. But it can be proven on strictly residential as well." PUC Telecom’s entry into the PLC market comes a few weeks after Hydro-Québec and Telecom Ottawa expressed interest in the technology (NL, Dec. 8/03). Neither utel has actually deployed the service yet.