Ontario companies offer optical all-in-one product

Customers of two Ontario companies will soon be able to use one optical network to deliver voice, video and data information – a concept that has been “much ballyhooed” for decades, said one Toronto analyst.

Toronto-based Stream Intelligent Networks announced Wednesday that it entered into an agreement with Ottawa-based Global Network Experts Communications Corporation (GNE).

According to the announcement, Stream’s gigabit Ethernet will enable enterprise users to send multiple traffic types over a common medium. That, said Ron Chapman, president and CEO of GNE, is bound to bring a better quality at a lower price to the customer.

“Most customers, at this point in time, are not well-versed in what is possible for them as a converged network solution,” Chapman said, adding that large carriers often point to poor-quality when customers ask about voice-over IP.

“Coming to the new converged network solution, the platform for providing voice-over IP is very reliable. The customer gets a clear quality that it is better than the existing public switch telephone network and it provides customers with a platform where they can add other services.”

Paul Barrett, director of strategic partnerships for Stream, said this simplifies business, making it so customers don’t have to manage three networks for their needs.

“Network management is much simplified by running on one network,” he said, adding that Stream needed to drive additional network traffic onto their existing metropolitan area network.

“I believe in the building-centric model and we have a group of landlords set up so we are wired into 130 of their buildings and I am trying to show them how we can help them generate revenues by bringing products that we benefit their tenant base.”

Lawrence Surtees, senior telecom analyst at market research firm IDC Canada in Toronto, said while he regretted the pun, the integrated, all-in-one converged network has been “a pipe dream” promoted by most of the industry for decades.

“Voice and data convergence has been ballyhooed by the Nortels of the world since the late 70s and here we are in 2001 going ‘Oh yeah? Where is it,” he said. “In the broadband era, I think there’s a number of things, not just with broadband networks, but with IP-based networks that are going to make it more of a reality.”

Although this could take some time to accomplish, Stream may have a bit of an advantage.

“In the network world, it is something that every carrier is thinking about,” he said. “(Stream) may be small, but if you are a newer-comer, you are not saddled with all the old-fashioned legacy gear.”

But being a newbie may not serve them well in what Chapman expects will be the project’s biggest challenge.

“I think the challenge here is the public knowledge of what is possible,” he said. “Our biggest limiting factor is getting the news out there and getting our first customer on board and getting some testimonials.”

Chapman said he hoped to have a market for this in the next couple of months.

Barrett said Stream and GNE would be approaching large enterprise customers that have currently operate separate voice, data and video networks as their first market target. He also said he would be telling customers that his product is different than Bell’s and Telus’.

“Ours is different because we are doing the convergence piece which brings the simplification and the cost reduction,” he said, adding that Stream is using optics for its product, where others are using DSL. Stream’s network will handle voice over IP, streaming video, video conferencing, application traffic and HTTP.

Surtees was positive about Stream’s prospects for this project, calling metropolitan area networks (MAN) “the next frontier.”

“One area where there is room for lots of growth is MANs,” he said. “It’s a logical space to want to play in and for a newcomer to want to pursue. People have spent money elsewhere and then they are waking up going oh, this is the bottleneck that needs to be fixed. Stream might be at the right place at the right time.”

Stream in Toronto is at http://www.stream.ca/. GNE in Ottawa is at http://www.gnecom.com/. IDC Canada in Toronto is at http://www.idccanada.com.