Telus security wins Ontario bid

Telus Corp. is serving up a strong dose of network security by taking a bite out of Bell’s dominant turf, winning the Government of Ontario’s telecommunications contract.

The five-year deal — worth $140 million — will supply the Ontario government’s Ministry of Government Services with Telus’ portfolio of network services.

Telus will also employ what the company calls “a superior IT security solution suite” for the Ontario government, with a focus on protecting Ontario’s citizens’ personal data.

Mike Martin, managing director of Telus Public Sector Business Solutions, said the security suite Telus is planning for the government incorporates unique features.

“The security suite is all-encompassing,” Martin said. “What we’ve been tasked with doing is building a security umbrella around the total LAN infrastructure and it will include our endpoint security solution.

“It protects at Layer 2 (Data Link Layer) on the OSI Model and stops moving everything beyond Layer 2.”

Ron McKerlie, corporate CIO and chief strategist for service delivery at Ontario’s Ministry of Government Services, said that Telus’ security suite will ensure high-quality, highly secure data management for Ontario’s citizens.

“It’s important to us because we have about 1,600 points of connection in the province where we provide service through local area networks, wide area networks, and remote access service to our employees around the province,” McKerlie said. “There’s lots of potential ways, particularly when you’re moving e-mail around, that you can bring a virus into the system.”

Telus has a suite of software that will help Ontario secure the network even better than it is today, he said.

Security — a key aspect of the Government of Ontario contract — is a strong suit for Telus, according to Brian Sharwood, principal of technology research at telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group.

“They’ve done a lot of their security stuff in-house,” he said. “They consider it a key competency.”

McKerlie said Telus won the bid for three reasons: The quality of its core IP networks; very competitive pricing; and high calibre of people, including project managers and network expertise.

“We know Telus, they obviously won the business, but they are a service provider already and provide some of our LAN services and cell phone services,” McKerlie said. “They’re also big providers for other provincial jurisdictions like B.C. and the federal government. We felt pretty comfortable with them.”

Martin said the Government of Ontario’s contract with Telus is specifically focused on moving towards an IP model.

“It will take them from a legacy-based network to one of IP that will drive for convergence and that’s really the differentiator around it,” he said.

Sharwood agreed that Telus’ bid involves a large-scale deployment of high-quality IP-based networks.

It remained unknown whether Telus will eventually offer a hybrid system of in-house managed IP-phones and access to Centrex-based lines operating on the publicly switched phone system.

Sharwood said that Telus is now making a serious run in the lucrative Central Canadian marketplace.

“This is the big opportunity to grow,” he said. “It’s to compete head-to-head with Bell, be more nimble, more agile, to out-Bell Bell in their home territory.

“The [Ontario government] is looking for, ‘what are you going to do for us in your commitment to investing in Ontario?'”

Bell’s spokesperson for its enterprise business, Mohammed Nakhooda, said that it’s a competitive marketplace.

“We would take our success rate over theirs any day,” he said. “We’ve secured contracts with many institutions, particularly in the financial services sector.”

Telus is not just moving in on Bell’s established territories. It has been reported that Telus has been fiercely battling Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc. with offers of network upgrades to 3Mbps broadband Internet access speeds and IPTV deployment in Western Canadian markets.

Sharwood said that Telus’ experience working in advanced IP-based products gave the company a strong position heading into the bidding process with the Government of Ontario.

“They walk away from a lot of bids, what they call low-balling bids,” he said. “Telus is paying a decent price for this and focusing on some advanced services.

“I think they’ll be doing some of the advanced call centre things, integrated solutions. The Ontario government needs a lot of locations across the province. They want to move more of their services online.”

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