Tech Mahindra opens lab for Cdn wireless carriers

An Indian-based telecommunications services giant will open a mobility solutions centre in Toronto for wireless carriers this month 

“We are entering our 2.0 stage of our relationship with Canada,” said Manish Vyas, vice-president of Tech Mahindra’s North American branch.

Tech Mahindra is a global systems integrator for cable, phone and wireless companies that has a staff of about 40 quietly doing contract work for Telus Corp. and BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada for about four years.

Telus will be the first customer of its CanvasM Technologies’ division here, for which it will do mobile device certifications.

Vyas hopes to secure device and mobile application testing for more Canadian carriers as the sector expands.

There are eight major wireless carriers here now, with two more expected – the Eastlink cable division of Bragg Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. – to start within the next 12 months.

Tech Mahindra is a unit of the giant Mahindra Group, a US$12 billion conglomerate which is headquartered in Mumbai and has several IT-related divisions. A partnership between the Mahindra Group and British Telecom – which is a major customer — Tech Mahindra’s customers are telecom service providers or software companies that make products to service that sector. For the year ending March 31, 2010 the division had revenues of just under US$1 billion.

“Canada is unique for us,” Vyas said, “for our business in the non-IT space is still greater than the traditional [enterprise] IT business, which means we’ve done very well.”

“The unique proposition we bring to the table is we focus on our services and solutions, not products, and not just one area but on [the responsibilities of] any CxO within a service provider.”

While Vyas was energized in talking about what CanvasM will do here for Telus, a spokesman for the Vancouver-based carrier played down the importance.

“It’s not that unique,” Jim Johansson, Telus’ director of media relations said in an interview. “It’s just one of a number of companies we deal with.” CanvasM will be playing “quite a small role” in certifying select handsets, he said.

CanvasM itself is a partnership, between Tech Mahindra and Motorola Solutions.

The full name of the Toronto certification lab is the Innovation Centre for Mobility Solutions, and will be identical to ones CanvasM has built in the U.S. and other countries.

But Tech Mahindra wants to go beyond handset testing. It has hired Anik Sane from Bell Canada, where he was director of IT operations and delivery for Virgin Mobile Canada., to be Tech Mahindra’s Toronto-based North American vice-president for IT strategy and solutions.

Eventually, Sane said, the innovation centre will expand into helping Canadian carriers and companies build mobile enterprise applications, as it has in other countries.

“We believe what will differentiate providers in the future is the how they compete with ‘over-the-top’ players like Google and Yahoo, as well as handset operators who have application stores [like BlackBerry World], is to create an app store that’s focused on regional applications that’s focused even further on the enterprise market.”

“One of the things that we find very unique about Canada is you really do have these local telcos: SaskTel, Manitoba Telephone service, [Bell] Aliant or in Quebec with Videotron. It’s very similar to what we see in parts of Asia.”

Ultimately, Tech Mahindra would create a Canadian “ideation factory” for creating applications for hospitals, or leveraging location-based technologies to create mobile coupons for shopping malls.

The ultimate goal is to build a development platform for carriers, as Tech Mahindra has done in other countries, in partnership with carriers, universities and software developers.

The applications could either be unique to a Canadian carrier, Sane said, or sold to others.