Bell deploys wireless in Alberta

Companies in Alberta will soon be able to receive new Internet protocol (IP) services and offerings from Bell Canada, as the telco on Wednesday announced the deployment of a fixed wireless broadband solution in the province.

The network, slated for completion in mid-2005, will span several thousand kilometres across the province, including the areas of Edmonton, Calgary and some of their suburbs, with more than 300 point-to-multipoint wireless links. “We may further develop along the corridor along Calgary and Edmonton, but those areas…are our primary focus,” said Edmonton-based Keith Ponton, general manger, engineering for Bell.

The ultimate goal is to be able to provide customers with IP-based technology services, he said. “It will certainly be a useful tool for us to economically deploy — and rapidly deploy — a broadband network to new customers within these metro areas. And it’s really an augmentation of our broadband and also supports our Bell Mobility network in the west by enabling more cost-effective connectivity for the wireless customers as well.”

With Telus Corp. as the western incumbent carrier, Bell has been making moves to strengthen its presence in that part of the country.

“Western Canada is certainly one of the most important, potential growth areas that (Bell) has, and they are very anxious to see some strong success in Western Canada,” noted Mark Quigley, research manager with Ottawa-based Yankee Group. “And these kinds of announcements I think point to that — that they are investing dollars and expanding their network footprints so that they can reach and offer Bell Canada service to a larger segment of the marketplace.”

However, Bell as not able to simply go in and start deployment in Alberta. Being the newer kid on the block means that Bell does not have the luxuries of an incumbent, so it turned to a solution from Ericsson Canada to help it deploy the new network. Specifically, the company is using Ericsson’s Mini-Link Broadband Access System (BAS) which, according to Dragan Nerandzic, vice-president of network systems at Ericsson Canada, demonstrates the ability for Ericsson to provide cost-efficient solutions in areas where fibre is not readily available.

The Mini-Link BAS, which has been deployed in other parts of the world, essentially allows operators to deploy a limited number of hubs and establish a large footprint. And, according to Nerandzic, within that established footprint operators would be able to deploy customer premise equipment. Mini-Link BAS also allows for data rates in excess of 20Mbps on each individual customer’s premise equipment, at the same time providing allowances for additional T-1 traffic.

“It is based on technology that allows the establishment of a footprint…in a radius of 10 kilometres from the hub location, and essentially allows for a footprint of up to 300 square kilometres from one hub location. And the hub actually has up to four sectors, providing, I would say, 90 degree coverage to that area, in each of these sectors. The total capacity of the hub is 155Mbps, which means that in one sector it would have 37.5Mbps,” Nerandzic explained.

Given the area of coverage of the new network, Quigley said Bell will have good business opportunities with larger companies based in the major cities, such as oil companies’ headquarters. Bell does have a competitive advantage, Quigley noted, in that it is not a “fly-by-night, startup competitor, but in fact the largest telco in Canada.”

He added that Bell is extremely well-financed and has a very good reputation in the market in terms of its product and service set. In short: as a competitor in the market, he said, Bell is a leader.

“From a service provider choice perspective, there is going to be more to choose from for end users, which means you can probably look forward to a little intensification on the price side of the equation.”

Bell’s new services will be launched on the network following its completion in 2005.

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