UCNet forges rural links

Oh Canada, our home and – mainly – rural land. Getting connected in rural areas has proven to be no easy task, according to Upper Canada Networks (UCNet), a user-based group representing the community of the Eastern Ontario county of Leeds and Grenville.

Recently, Cisco Systems Canada announced that UCNet had selected Cisco’s fixed wireless technology to build UCNet’s broadband community network in the Leeds/Grenville areas. UCNet has chosen a consortium of communications companies supported by Cisco’s broadband fixed wireless solutions to build a point-to-point wireless backbone network including a point-to-multipoint edge connectivity.

Campbell Patterson, project manager for UCNet, said Cisco was the choice to build the network because it brought a best-of-breed solution that he said met UCNet’s requirements for scalability, flexibility and affordability.

Upon receiving $1.8 million in funding from the Ontario Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, UCNet said it is in the process of completing one of the first implementations of a broadband wireless local loop in Eastern Ontario.

According to UCNet’s president, Vic Allen, more traditional routes, such as fibre-optic cabling, were far too expensive a voyage for UCNet to undertake.

“As a consequence, wireless seemed the most likely affordable option,” Allen said. “We are starting life with a 45Mb loop. While our backbone is primarily wireless in nature, clearly it is integrated with existing wireline architecture. We are looking forward to a very profitable and successful partnership with Cisco and the other consortium partners.”

Cisco Canada Account Manager Mike Oster said Cisco expects the biggest inhibitor in the deployment of the network to be the geography.

“This is what makes a wireless approach ideally suited (for UCNet),” Oster said. “In sharp contrast to UCNet’s network, which will be deployed by the (end of) the summer, a fibre-based project has about a two-and-a-half year deployment schedule.”

Managing the next generation broadband network is Cygnal Technologies and two of its divisions: Integrated Cable Systems (ICS), and Comlink Systems. Together, these divisions will design, equip, manage and integrate the network.

According to Darrin Gibbons, national sales manager for Comlink Systems, ICS is the long-standing Cisco partner in building metropolitan area networks (MANs) across Canada, and will take the prime role in the development of the network. Comlink, he said, is a broadband communications company that will be responsible for radio frequency (RF) integration and supply of RF equipment to the project.

With a population of approximately 150,000 people in the Kemptville, Leeds, Grenville and Brockville areas, UCNet’s Allen said it is the company’s intention to provide small high tech companies that wish to populate the corridor with access to affordable bandwidth, currently not available in the area.

UCNet’s Patterson added that at this point, the focus is on servicing what he called the largest employers in the community, including municipal government, hospitals, school boards, large commercial and industrial organizations and postsecondary institutions.

“Our plan is to meet their requirements for interconnection and Internet as well as the requirement to connect their downstream users and VPNs,” Patterson said. “Moving forward, it is out intention to push broadband connectivity right down to the curb and farm gate over the next five years.”

Cisco and UCNet plan to deploy the wireless network beginning April through to the fall 2001. Allen said he expects to have the Brockville area fully wired and operational sometime in May. UCNet is on the Web at www.uppercanada.net. For details, visit www.cisco.com.