There’s a blue glass office tower in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough that could be the home of an insurance company. In fact, it once was.
Today, though,15 of its floors house some of the Ontario offices and testing lab of Telus Corp., including that of Eros Spadotto, the telco’s executive vice-president of strategy.
A genial man, he’s responsible for wireless and wireline engineering and strategy – including negotiating with equipment suppliers – with a staff of 600 in Toronto and Edmonton.
That includes overseeing three wireless networks: A new HSPA+ network launched last November, plus the telco’s existing PCS and iDEN MiKE networks. By comparison, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada has two networks and Rogers Communications Inc. has one. Spadotto shrugs it off, explaining Telus has a “maniacal” focus on costs.
“I can tell you we run with less people than some of the big competitors. If you think about it, where do costs come from? Buying equipment, running equipment with all the bits and pieces that come with it, like hydro and space and HVAC, leases and things like that, and they come from people. If you have a focus on those three things you can drive the costs down to comparable or better, you’re golden.”
When it came to the HSPA+ network, Telus didn’t trim corners, he says. Realizing that backhaul capacity is vital to keep up with future demand, the company put 100 Gigabit Ethernet from the core to base stations.
“The one thing that was pretty clear to us as we built the new network is that we cannot behave as an incumbent,” he says. “The natural kind of tendencies of an incumbent is ‘I’m going to build everything inside a shelter at the base of the tower, I have a fairly prolific copper-based network that can take T1s, I’ll use that. I can multi-couple my new network on my old antennas.’ We completely threw that away.”
“We said we’re going to build a brand new network from the bottom up. We’re going to take advantage of the latest and greatest.” That included buying suitcase-sized base station gear from Nokia Siemens Networks and China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
“In some cases we pushed the boundary too far in terms of how much of the latest and greatest we chose,” he admits. “So our network is world-leading in terms of how we built it, but it takes advantage of what an incumbent had, which is lots and lots of locations where you can build cell sites”
To get an idea of the change in technology over the years, Spadotto took a reporter to a room in the building that houses gear for each of the three networks. For the iDEN network, a 3U-sized shelf with a power amplifier, receiver and controller from Motorola Inc. can only serve three users. A single refrigerator-sized box of 1990s access gear from the former Lucent Technologies for the PCS network can support 128 calls. By contrast a small vertical rack of suitcase sized radios for the UMTS/HSPA network handles hundreds of calls at a time.