Fixed broadband wireless network for parts of southern Ontario and Quebec is being tested now for initial download speeds of up to 5 Mbps

Xplornet

Barrett Xplore Inc.’s new WiMAX fixed broadband wireless network will be up and running in parts of southern Ontario and Quebec early next year, a company official says.

“We are targeting a Q1 2011 commercial launch,” David Miles, the company’s chief network officer said in an interview Tuesday. “Quebec will be first out of the gate.”

Based in Woodstock, N.B., Barrett’s Xplornet service already offers fixed wireless service to about 130,000 businesses and homes across the country. But in October it announced new fixed and satellite based services to significantly boost speeds offered to the outlying areas of the country is specializes in covering.

Initial coverage areas for the faster WiMAX network in Quebec will include Gaspe area around Riviere du Loup, the Drummondville/Magog area and a region north of Montreal.

In Ontario the new network will roughly cover Grey and Wellington counties, which are northwest of Toronto.

Barrett will spend all of 2011 expanding the WiMAX network in these two areas. Alberta communities will be added in 2012.

The Quebec and Ontario implementations will be paid in part by grants from the federal government’s $225 million Broadband Canada rural broadband program, Miles said.

To start, businesses will be offered several packages with maximum download speeds of between 5 and 10 megabits per second and monthly data between 50 and 100 gigabits, he said. Initial consumer download speeds will be a maximum of 5 Mbps. The rates will be posted at the end of January.

“The system is certainly capable of much greater speed,” he added. “It’s just a question of what you want to offer in terms of mix of plans, mix of customers.”

When Barrett announced the new network in October it said WiMAX would be initially capable of speeds under ideal conditions of 40 Mbps.

“We’ll be evolving our plan offerings over time.” Miles said.

Miles also said that Ottawa’s DragonWave Inc., which has supplied Ethernet-based backhaul microwave radios for Barrett’s existing fixed wireless network, won a multimillion dollar contract over the summer to supply equipment for the WiMAX network. Often carriers only announce their equipment suppliers months after the choice has been made and close to when the network will go live.

The radios transmit wireless signals between towers that can be as much as 25 km apart, Miles said.

DragonWave was chosen over the summer after a competitive bidding process among at least four other companies, Miles said. 

“They’ve been a really good partner with Barrett. We were able to achieve what we consider to be industry-leading economics four our network with DragonWave. We’re very happy with the service and product they’ve given us and overall they were the best competitor when it came to the RFP (request for proposals) process.”

In an interview John Lawlor, DragonWave’s vice-president of investor relations, was more expansive, saying that “given the fact that we had a relationship with Barrett … we were pretty much in the driver’s seat on this one.”

Barrett is using DragonWave’s Horizon Compact system on its existing network, which Lawlor said has a capacity of 800 Mbps. For the WiMAX network Barrett will also use DragonWave’s new Quantum system, with a capacity of up to 4 Gbps.

DragonWave also sold backhaul radios to wireless startup Wind Mobile and to Videotron Ltee. for its new wireless network in Quebec.

Meanwhile, Miles said the satellites Barrett has contracted for to expand its high speed coverage to remote parts of the country are under construction. The first is scheduled to be fired into orbit in April, with service targeted for the fourth quarter of 2011.  

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