Toronto gets toasty under Wi-Fi blanket

Communications experts have been watching the developments at Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc. with avid anticipation ever since David Dobbin was named president in August. So it came as no surprise when the Toronto Hydro Corp. subsidiary recently announced plans to throw a blanket Wi-Fi hot zone over the city.

The company is aiming to cover the downtown core with Wi-Fi access points by the end of this year, starting with the financial district, and it hopes to build out to its entire municipal jurisdiction within three years.

As COO of Telecom Ottawa Inc, Dobbin was responsible for installing a Wi-Fi network in the capital’s downtown core. Since moving to Toronto, he’s been on a hiring spree that helped lure two key players in the field.

Ian Collins, former president of FibreWired Hamilton, was appointed vice-president of operations, and Sharyn Gravelle, a former Microcell (Fido) executive, was named vice-president, wireless, and is responsible for the development, deployment and maintenance of the Wi-Fi network.

Providing a communications network for Toronto’s smart meters was one of the clear business drivers for the hot zone, says Dobbin. “We needed a network to send and receive data for the smart meters, and here we are with one of the largest fibre networks in the city. Why not extend it with Wi-Fi and read the meters that way?”

Toronto’s hot zone will see hundreds and then thousands of radio antennae attached to streetlight poles. In Ottawa, the Wi-Fi network was built on the city’s existing hydro poles, but the Toronto Hydro electric system does not allow radio attachments on hydro poles.

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