Fiber networks link Canada?s business routes

Jan. 1, 1995

Fiber networks link Canada?s business routes

Stan Kolodziej

Sprint Canada Inc. of Toronto is installing a 360-mile fiber trunk between Toronto and Montreal that is expected to form the core of a major $100 million (Canadian) telecommunications upgrade by the long-distance carrier.

The Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal network constitutes the first stage of a national fiber-optic network architecture scheduled to be completed in 1997 by Sprint Canada. As part of the plan, the carrier will build fiber networks in several Canadian business telecommunications corridors, including Vancouver-to-Calgary-to-Edmonton, Montreal-to-Quebec City and Tor onto-to-Windsor.

"When we`re finished building, the Toronto-Montreal business corridor will have as much fiber as the New York-to-Washington corridor, which is probably the busiest [telecommunications zone] in North America," explains Philip Bailey, vice president for network services at Sprint Canada. The installation of the dual-ring fiber network was scheduled to be completed by the end of 1994. The fiber cable, supplied by both Pirelli Cable, Lexington, SC, and Siecor Corp., Hickory, NC, will contain 60 to 100 strands of singlemode fiber, as well as some dispersion-shifted fiber.

"The Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal fiber link will give Sprint Canada arguably more than twice the existing capacity of our competitors` [fiber] networks combined," declares Juri Koor, chairman and chief executive for Sprint Canada. "In 1995, Canada will finally have real competition in its [long-distance] market."

Lots of capacity

"We`re putting in lots of fiber and capacity from the beginning," Bailey declares. "We don`t want to come back at some point and have to overbuild the network." Sprint Canada will employ Alcatel transmission equipment, capable of OC-48 (2.5-gigabit-per-second) synchronous optical network rates, on the Toronto-Montreal network.

Sprint Canada will initially introduce new services such as long-distance high-speed private lines at DS-1 (1.44 megabit-per-second) and DS-3 (44-Mbit/sec) rates. (Private lines involve the dedication and lease of fiber-optic high-speed circuits to large businesses to connect two or more of their locations.) Sprint Canada will also use the new fiber network to double its residential voice transmission business from 100,000 to 200,000 customers in the next few months.

Although he says there is little demand for it now, Bailey remarks that the carrier decided to put high-speed Sonet electronics in place for the future. "Our [business] customers are interested more in DS-3 than OC-3 [155-Mbit/sec] rates right now," Bailey contends, "although we`ll be ready when the market is ready."

The carrier hopes to have the first of its voice, data and videoconferencing services up and running in the first quarter of this year. The company is also extending a fiber link between Montreal and the Quebec/United States border and has completed another fiber extension between Toronto and the Ontario/U.S. border. Both links will tie into Sprint USA`s long-distance fiber network.

Lower rates

"We should pay for the Toronto/Montreal [network] installation on leased-line savings alone," Bailey predicts, adding that the new national service will help lower network rates for Canadian corporate customers. According to Canadian government statistics, Canadian business customers currently pay between two and four times the rates of their U.S. counterparts for equivalent services. Bailey says the monthly rate for a dedicated T-1 line from New York to Los Angeles, for example, is approximately $6000 (U.S.), compared with a T-1 line from Toronto to Vancouver that costs approximately $16,000 (U.S.) per month.

In July 1992, the government`s Canadian Radio and Television Commission, an agency that rules on regulatory issues that involve the broadcast and communications industries, declared through its Telecom Decision 92-12 that long-distance service in Canada was officially open to competition.

The commission also ruled recently on "equal access." This ruling requires Canadian telephone companies to adapt their networks with special software that allows long-distance telephone service competitors to provide automatically equal access to their customers. In essence, equal access means that by simply dialing 1-plus the telephone number, Canadian customers can select the long-distance supplier of their choice and make long-distance calls through that supplier.

Sprint Canada, which is owned by Toronto-based Call-net Enterprises, is building the fiber networks to create national high-speed telecommunications services that would compete with Stentor and Unitel--the two major long-distance carriers in Canada--for the approximately $1 billion (U.S.) Canadian long-distance market. Sprint Canada currently has to lease network facilities from Stentor and Unitel for its national residential and business customers.

Established three years ago, Stentor is an organization formed by the nine Canadian provincial telephone companies to conduct both research and commercial operations. It recently partnered with a leading U.S. long-distance carrier--MCI Communications Corp.--to provide long-distance service in Canada. The other major long-distance Canadian carrier is Unitel, who, in partnership with AT&T, forms the other part of the so-called "duopoly" of Canadian long-distance telecommunications services.

Bell Canada, as part of Stentor`s overall national telecommunications service, has completed its own fiber-based network in the Toronto-to-Montreal corridor. This network will compete in Sonet-switched services with Sprint Canada`s network. q

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