Research and educational institutions across Ontario are a step closer to one of the world’s largest research optical networks, as Bell Canada and the Optical Regional Advanced Network of Ontario (ORANO) on Tuesday announced a $25 million contract to provide equipment and fibre for the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION).

According to a statement issued by the companies, the announcement signifies the conclusion of discussions between Bell, ORANO and a group of allied companies which includes Nortel Networks, Cisco Systems, Hydro One Telecom and various regional telecom partners.

Once complete, ORION will connect 21 communities and more than 50 institutions across Ontario, spanning 3,700 kilometres and providing broadband access for the province’s research and advanced educational institutions. The network will ultimately offer optical wavelength capacities at 10Gbps, scalable to 320Gbps, the companies said. The network is owned and operated by ORANO.

“ORION will transform the way Ontario researchers and organizations collaborate with each other and their colleagues around the world. ORION brings, for the first time, access to the world’s top high-speed research networks to all regions of the province,” said Dr. Ross Paul, chairman of ORANO and the president of the University of Windsor, in a statement.

Primary funding for the network was received through the Ontario Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation as well as Ontario’s SuperBuild Corporation, which has invested $32.3 million. The federal government has also invested through CANARIE, Canada’s Advanced Internet Development Organization and the operator of CA*net4.

ORION is anticipated to be up and running by Spring 2003.

Details about the project and the various companies involved can be found online at