CANARIE network prepares to soar to new heights

Although the expiry of its current network is looming, CANARIE just might be singing a bit longer thanks to the efforts of two Canadian telecom players.

The Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry and Education Inc., (CANARIE) has selected Toronto-based GT Group Telecom and Calgary-based Big Pipe Inc., a division of Shaw Communications, to roll out CANARIE’s CA*net 4 national backbone network.

According to CANARIE, the five-year, minimum $25-million agreement will provide a new high-speed, private Internet network that will use next-generation technologies and will run across the networks of both GT and Big Pipe.

“The primary driver for the network is that CA*net 3 expires in July of this year,” said Bill St. Arnaud, senior director of advanced networks for CANARIE. “The CA*net 3 network is (currently) provided by Bell Canada under contract until July 31 this year. What Bell does with the network after July 31 is up to them, but it will be unavailable to CANARIE and its users.”

The network began a decade ago with CA*net 1, which allowed the simple transfer of e-mail files, followed by CA*net 2, which allowed sharing Web applications and large files. CA*net 3 marked the world’s fastest advanced Internet backbone. Whereas it took a user nine minutes to download the entire Canadian Encyclopedia on CA*net 1, the same action on CA*net 3 was instantaneous. In comparison, CA*net 4 is eight times faster than CA*net 3.

However, St. Arnaud explained that high speeds are not the focus of the new CA*net 4. CA*net 4 is designed to provide end-users with the ability to set up and manage their own optical wavelength networks using parts of CA*net 4’s total capacity.

“The customer will be able to manage and re-route and control the network and own lightpaths, just as if they were part of their own network,” he said.

St. Arnaud added that CANARIE hopes that through the development of this technology, the basic operating premise of a network will change dramatically. He added that by allowing CA*net 4 customers to manage their own wavelengths, research industries will be able to transfer the terabytes and yottabytes of data necessary to discover new particles and information.

“The technology we are developing is called Customer Powered Networking and it is essentially to give customers control of the network,” St. Arnaud continued. “The big area we see (demand for) are these things called grids. These are new high-end technologies that allow extreme bandwidth applications. We are seeing huge volume data transfer requirements coming from …high energy physics and astronomy and other fields where they need their own dedicated wavelength or light path (to) transfer this data.”

Research grids, which are emerging as the global standard for research initiatives, will now be possible in Canada via CA*net 4.

Under the agreement, GT will provide CANARIE with a coast-to-coast network along with various OC-192 wavelengths and some collocation services, the company said. The network will take advantage of IP over DWDM technology, which GT said provides for a higher capacity and more reliable network and is the first of its kind in Canada.

“By implementing DWDM, it allows us to take the same piece of fibre and be able to have more wavelengths in it, in order to take more information and transport it over longer distances without having to repeat the signal,” said Tal Bevan, president of business operations for GT. “Along with OC-192, we are providing a huge amount of bandwidth for these applications. (CANARIE) is asking for certain organizations to have access to different sizes of bandwidth and we need o make sure that we work with them to implement configurations to allow them to do that type of thing.”

Providing additional wavelengths to CA*net 4, Big Pipe said the partnership with GT and CANARIE has established credibility for the young company in the marketplace.

“We have a tremendous telecommunications network which makes us very capable from a delivery standpoint,” said Jerrold Laird, director of marketing for Shaw/Big Pipe. “CANARIE wanted to give their customers control of how they allocate the wavelengths. They are providing gear at the end of our connection, which allows them to do that. We are basically providing them with bandwidth.”

Both Big Pipe and GT call the CA*net 4 project a significant win that will boost both companies’ profiles in the Canadian telecommunications marketplace.

“First off, it lets other people know that when it comes to high-end, complex applications…not only can we play, but we can win,” said Bevan. “When you think about the North American players and then you think of our relative size positioning, we have been able to build…an optimal IP network from the beginning. This is one of the most important wins that we have recorded in our relatively young history.”

According to St. Arnaud, the CA*net 4 rollout is going according to plan and is expected to be fully operational by the end of this month. Once deployed, CA*net 4 will span from coast to coast within Canada as well as extend into parts of the U.S., with the capacity to carry multimedia traffic for health, research and educational applications. For more information about CA*net 4, visit