The water is fine for Tropical Networks

According to one analyst, the optical networking market is heading towards growth. For Tropic Networks Inc., a new start-up located in Ottawa, that prediction means it has timed its entrance perfectly.

“We see the optical edge networks market as composed of three main camps: next generation SONET or SDH, integrated metro WDM and metro optical IP networks,” said Scott Clavenna, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Pioneer Consulting. “I would place Tropic in the metro optical IP networks camp, which is actually quite small right now. It’s the newest of solutions for the metro area and most of the companies are quite small and just getting started. So there’s definitely an opportunity to establish themselves.”

The company, which was formed last May, was founded by a group of engineers and executives from Newbridge Networks and Nortel Networks. Tropic chairman and CEO Kevin Rankin said there was a big opportunity in the market that everyone involved did not want to pass up.

“In the big picture, the opportunity is the wholesale change out of the telecommunication networks in metropolitan areas to fibre — that includes not only the physical transmission media that connect businesses (but) also the central offices. The central offices of the future will be fibre-optic-based,” Rankin said.

The company will be providing optical networking equipment — both hardware and software — to deliver optical services, according to Rankin. Tropic will be gearing its offerings to service providers and telecom carriers that are “offering very high-bandwidth IP services to their enterprise clients.”

Tropic is taking what Rankin called an end-to-end approach with an end-to-end solution, which will result in a broader range of offerings and a cost-optimized architecture with a high level of reliability and availability for the customer.

The primary target area will be North America, he added, with a “heavy bias towards the United States just in terms of…that is the most important data communications or telecommunications market in the world, and that will be our number one market.” Europe will follow, he said, and the rest of world beyond that.

Dan McLean, a research manager with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., said that Ottawa is a hotbed for start-ups in this market. “I know there’s a lot of activity going on up there with respect to both existing companies and a whole lot of start-up companies that are working on fibre-optic technologies,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that Canada is a leader in pioneering a lot of this type of technology.”

He said that while there is a lot of innovation with the technology, there is still a lot to do in terms of developing and enhancing the bandwidth capabilities of fibre — and the need for it is always on the rise.

“The expectations are that eventually there’s just going to be orders of magnitude in terms of demand for bandwidth. And one of the issues always around bandwidth need, in terms of any sort of communication technology, is that the projections are always lower than what actually happens,” McLean explained. “So even when companies are saying they are projecting 10 times growth in bandwidth demand over the next two years, I think consistently that demand has always exceeded the projections.”

Right now Tropic’s goal is to continue to build up its team that will execute on its vision, and to develop its relationships with customers that will be using its solution.

“It would be our full intent to plan to be in customer testing one year from now, and prior to that we expect to be delivering the components of the end-to-end system for customer verification and validation for the way that our product will solve their needs,” Rankin explained.

In the interim, he said he expects there will be sub-systems that Tropic will deliver on.

For more information, visit the company at