Tsunami slams into Ontario cities

FibreTech – a $10-million fibre-optic investment by the electric utilities of Waterloo Region in Southwestern Ontario that will offer telecommunications services to the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo – has released its new symmetrical, 10Mbps burstable Internet connection, appropriately called the “Tsunami” after the immensely powerful Pacific tidal waves.

“You just can’t do this with copper, you’d have to go with fibre,” according to FibreTech’s marketing manager, Ron Kurtz. “You can’t guarantee 10Mbps Quality of Service (QoS) on copper. DSL works really well but it is always 2.2Mbps. We have an ATM transport mechanism, so we can guarantee a Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC) at 10Mbps. Of course, that only guarantees it within our system and into the Internet.”

The Tsunami product is Cisco-based and runs on a 100 per cent fibre-optic network, and according to Hurtz, FibreTech’s cable is the fastest medium available for telecommunications tested to terabits; adding that through attenuation and interference, FibreTech’s fibre-optic network outperforms co-axial and copper wire systems.

“Our biggest competitor is Bell’s ADSL service, especially for business customers,” said Kurtz. “Our service is 10Mbps both ways where DSL is 2.2Mbps one way and only 700kbps the other way.” He added that there are also issues of robustness with DSL.

“This is really a product focused on companies that are aggressively getting into the eBusiness marketplace who have an appreciation for a better quality Internet connection.”

Questions about QoS are answered through a single ATM PVC dedicated to each customer, allowing FibreTech to manage and monitor each connection’s service performance.

Kurtz added that FibreTech’s backbone uses a survivable mesh architecture throughout the Waterloo Region with diverse access to the core, allowing a robust and fault tolerant alternate path for data between locations.

Tsunami will offer companies access to the latest in IT applications that require high bandwidth and robust connections like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), real-time imaging and videoconferencing, as well as interactive applications from ASPs, such as database backup, disaster recovery, Internet security management and Voice over IP (VoIP) between locations.

Andre Setton, partner and strategy manager with Toronto-based Internet services consulting firm marchFIRST, sees Tsunami easily adapting to customers’ growing bandwidth needs, in excess of 10Mbps, without the necessity of provisioning new circuits and equipment. But he also sees limitations to the product.

“The installation cost can be considered relatively high compared to copper-based service offerings and the three-year commitment may scare people off. Also, it may not be suitable for ASPs, for instance, but rather seems to target a VPN-type of application.”

Alessandro Motta, also with marchFIRST, considers FibreTech’s product a way for the Waterloo Region to keep up with the rapid evolution of telecommunications technologies.

“Many urban and regional municipalities have limited choices for telecommunications services, of which most are still based on legacy copper-based technologies,” he said. “It is very refreshing to see municipal utilities such as those in the Waterloo Region ‘get the point’, advance on Bill 35 [the Energy Competition Act, which deregulates the province’s utilities companies, allowing them to enter the telecommunications market], leverage their right of way, and make the investment to help progress the status of the community from a technological and economic development point of view.”

He added that similar solutions exist in other jurisdictions, most based on similar technologies.

“The number is only a handful, but the quality of services and the levels of customer satisfaction are certainly impressive,” he said.

Tsunami runs on full capacity Internet pipes from 521Kbps to OC-3 connections of 155Mbps for sustained high traffic Internet servers on a 24×7 basis. And, according to the company, its local loop can extend its customers’ LAN to various locations at native speeds of Ethernet (10Mbps) and Fast Ethernet (100Mbps), leveraging investments and costs by allowing centralized software to be used by multiple sites through FibreTech’s local loop service.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board is currently piloting FibreTech’s Internet offering and will be working with the company to connect all of its 52 schools.

Sandra Quehl, manager of information systems with the

Board said, “In terms of doing comparisons with other service providers, they all seemed to provide the same general service. However, FibreTech seemed to be more cost-effective, at $995/month. That’s certainly the bottom line in a publicly-funded organization.”

For more information on FibreTech, visit