CLEC set to launch service in Waterloo

Combined Xchange Telecom Inc.(CXT) has launched telecommunications services in the Waterloo, Ont., area using existing fibre optic cable from Waterloo North Hydro.

The community-based CLEC, which is a joint venture for Toronto-based Combined Telecommunications Inc. (CTI) and the hydro company, will install its own switch in Waterloo.

Voice and data services, which are already available from CXT through resale, include internal dialling plans, voice mail and dial-up Internet access, according to Robert Koven, president and CEO of CTI, and president of CXT.

“They’re (the services) available from us on a resale basis,” Koven explained. “But we plan on having our facilities in place in the first quarter of 2000, which will give us more flexibility to add many more services.”

The company is bundling its services, Koven said, because that is what is most appropriate for the markets CXT is aiming for.

“We see ourselves as a single source supplier,” Koven said, “so the packages will be bundled and will be customized because the target market that we’re going after is primarily verticals, including educational, health care, hospitality and large business users — professional services.”

The company will be providing support through on-line help, customer service representatives associated with sales teams, and through network partner Bell Nexxia, which will assist with help desk functions and second line technical support, said Koven.

“Bell Nexxia is our strategic partner, aimed at servicing the target market which we are focusing on, which is the large enterprise customers,” he said. “Bell Nexxia has put up a nation-wide IP-based network, and their on-line help is focused at servicing that sector.”

Koven explained the company chose to launch services in Waterloo “because there is access to a tremendous R&D (community) through the universities there, and a number of large universities and large businesses that require competitive, high speed advanced telecommunications solutions.”

According to Iain Grant, research manger at the Brockville, Ont.-based Yankee Group in Canada, community-based CLECS are something the market will be seeing more of.

“Most of the CLECS we hear about are focused on Toronto or Ottawa, but there’s some very interesting things happening in the smaller areas too,” he said, adding that this is a growth opportunity for the smaller communities. “I think pretty soon, if your municipality doesn’t have one of these, perhaps you will be disadvantaged.”

“Most of the power companies are owned by the municipality — in Ontario at least,” he explained. “And that means that the municipality itself is acting as its own developing agent by saying, ‘Perhaps if the new economy is going to be based on bandwidth and capacity, that by putting these electronic highways in we’re just developing the potential for our area,’ guaranteeing jobs, and all sorts of other things.”

And while the Canadian Technology Triangle (CTT)/Waterloo area is the hub of CXT’s network, there are already plans for a country-wide expansion. Toronto and Vancouver are next on the company’s to-do list, as well as Montreal, Edmonton, Halifax and Ottawa.

“We’re looking at Toronto and Vancouver in the year 2000 and the others all in the year 2001,” Koven said. But, he added, the expansion into other cities will be different than the Waterloo venture. In the projects-to-come, “we will provide end-to-end solutions ourselves.”

With the continuing growth of technology, and the myriad of new companies popping up, Grant had some advice for customers. When making a decision about telecommunication needs, Grant warns, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

He compared the CLEC industry to airlines, saying you can always fly with a cheaper airline that you’ve never heard of.

“One of the things you pay for with a carrier you’ve heard of are things like maintenance, reputation. And I think by and large, you do get what you pay for.”

He said that the focus on needs is shifting away from money.

“While it’s great, and I encourage our clients to look for ways of saving money, saving money isn’t the main theme of communications any more,” Grant explained. “You want reliability, you want seven by 24 service, you want the ability to call somebody and make sure that they’re going to get back to you in a timely fashion with a response.”

Grant said that is only at the basic level.

“As you move up the value stream, you actually want a partner who’s going to help you understand how to exploit that communications technology to better your business,” he said.

For more information, Combined Telecom can be reached at and Waterloo North Hydro can be reached at