Ethernet across the border

Canadian businesses hoping to have Ethernet connections to their offices in the U.S. now have more options thanks to a deal between Ontario’s Hydro One Telecom Inc. and Tulsa, Okla.-based WilTel Communications announced last month.

The collaboration delivers WilTel’s Ethernet Wide-Area Network (EWAN) service to Hydro One customers who need connections into the U.S. The deal also extends WilTel’s EWAN coverage to its customers who have a presence in Canada.

“We have had a lot of customers ask for cross-border services. We have not been able to fulfill their needs and have had a fair bit of pent up demand for customers who in some cases have asked us for up to two years for Ethernet service to the U.S.,” said John Macdonald, president and CEO of Hydro One Telecom. Macdonald added he wasn’t able to offer Ethernet in the past because the company didn’t have a U.S. partner that had the capability to do so.

Brian Sharwood, a principal with the Toronto-based Seaboard Group, said this collaboration is good for Hydro One as it gives the firm more access.

“When you connect over Ethernet, you have a lot more visibility into the network. Hydro One probably share their visibility with WilTel to see into each others’ networks. They can then share with their customers and deal with customer problems quickly on a consistent fabric,” Sharwood said.

“It adds a product no one really has: consistent fabric cross-border.”

Nancy Lunn, the director of marketing for Hydro One said what Ethernet means for enterprise customers is a more cost-effective and flexible solution that allows them choose how much bandwidth they want.

Sharwood said the deal gives an advantage to Hydro One over competitors like Bell Canada and Telus who also need to connect customers in the U.S.

“[Bell and Telus] can cover all of Canada but once they get down to the States they can’t do it. When you need to make that connection down [to the States], what [Bell] does is go to the border and rent Layer 3 from MCI or Verizon. They basically reach the border, transfer the protocol and Bell doesn’t have any visibility.”

Sharwood said the partership between WilTel and Hydro One is both a challenge and an opportunity for Bell. It is an opportunity for Bell, he said, because as system integrators trying to sell pipes and solving communication problems for enterprises, Bell could rent the pipe from Hydro One, instead of from Ameritech, to connect offices in the U.S.

Sharwood added that we should expect to see more collaboration amongst utility telecos in the next few months as a lot of them have built their fabrics on the Ethernet.

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