OmniGlobe expands rural Ontario wireless Internet

OmniGlobe Networks Inc. of Montreal has inked a deal with the eastern Ontario township of North Frontenac to setup wireless Internet service.

Initially it will install infrastructure in several communities about 150 km southwest of Ottawa, including Ardoch, Myers Cave and Cloyne. The general area is north of Highway 7 and east of Highway 41, in a hilly area with forests and outcrops, plus Bon Echo Provincial Park.

“It’s very difficult terrain,” said David Torres, business development manager of OmniGlobe Networks. “It’s at the foothills of the Canadian Shield. It’s beautiful terrain for cottages but in order to bring in wireless Internet, the area has a few challenges.”

The announcement comes 18 months after OmniGlobe announced plans to install fixed wireless infrastructure for Utilities Kingston, which provides electricity, water, sewage and telecom services.

That contract included the southeastern Ontario counties for Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.

OmniGlobe specializes in installing and operating networks in remote areas.

In the deal announced Friday, OmniGlobe would own and operate a fixed wireless network to provide high-speed Internet service to residents. The deal is contingent upon approval of government funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

“Most of this will be for residential users,” Torres said, adding some customers will be cottage owners while others will be permanent residents.

OmniGlobe did not say how much the project would cost and township officials were not immediately available for comment.

The coverage area will include the areas near Mazinaw, Mississagagon, Kashwakamak, Shabomeka and Marble Lakes.

 In the Utilities Kingston project, OMAFRA contributed $480,000, Utilities Kingston gave $766,088 and Frontenac Community Futures Development Corp. pledge $75,000.

The growth in fixed wireless has been “exponential” over the past five years, said Craig Read, director of the Toronto Wireless User Group.

“It’s a good architecture because the infrastructure doesn’t have to be expensive,” Read said. “I would forecast companies like OmniGlobe will do pretty well in areas where the top three telcos cannot get cables in the ground at a low enough cost to get back their money.”

The provincial funding for the Utilities Kingston project was provided under the Rural Connections Broadband Program, through which the government has committed $27.4 million since 2007.

Another project, announced last summer, is the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Regional Broadband Network, which is intended to provide download speeds of 1.5 Megabits per second or more to rural users.

Like the Utilities Kingston project, the North Frontenac infrastructure will include equipment described as “pre WiMAX,” meaning it is similar to equipment meeting the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.16 standards, also known as Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access.

“You don’t see a lot of WiMAX being deployed,” Read said. “Point to point is more efficient and easier to manage. WiMAX is interesting but the costs are quite high.”

WiMAX is the technology used in major U.S. cities by Clearwire Corp. of Kirkland, Wash.

In Canada, Craig Wireless Systems Ltd. of Vancouver plans to offer WiMAX service this year.

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