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Canada Bankrolls Provisioning Project

The latest version of Canada's key research network could boost commercial deployment as well

May 2, 2002

3 Min Read
Canada Bankrolls Provisioning Project

Canada has allocated C$110 million (US$70 million) for a nationwide 10-Gbit/s optical network that proponents say could help end users manage their own multimedia optical networks.

That's right: end users.

On Monday, Industry Canada, the government department that oversees economic development and telecom policy, awarded the funds to Canarie Inc., a not-for-profit corporation charged with creating and overseeing the network that links Canada's universities and research centers (see Canada Builds Research Net).

The network, dubbed CA*Net4, is set to become the development testbed for object-oriented software tools designed by Canarie researchers to help users configure wavelength services from their desktops and trade optical bandwidth with like-minded individuals on public exchanges.

If that model sounds far-out, it's supposed to. Spokespeople for Canarie say a key value of its work lies in pushing the technological envelope beyond what the market currently demands.

"Our primary purpose is to support the high-end needs of science and research. But like the original Internet, we hope to have a larger influence too," says Bill St. Arnaud, senior director of advanced networks at Canarie.

The bandwidth-management software project, named Consumer Powered Network, is a case in point. "We believe this object-oriented networking technology will have a big impact on current business models for managing optical networks," St. Arnaud says.

The software is being worked on by various researchers at Canarie, which is based in Ottawa. The scientists are working on creating Web-based software that interacts with 10-Gbit/s wavelengths on the CA*Net4, which is set to go live in July 2002.

The CA*Net4 made headlines this week, when it was announced that Canadian carriers GT Group Telecom and Big Pipe Inc. won an RFP worth a minimum of C$25 million (US$16 million) to provision the CA*Net4 optical backbone to Canarie.

The network is based primarily on optical links from GT Group, with subcontracted routes from Big Pipe. All the routes originated from fiber laid by 360networks Inc., Canarie says.

The two are offering Canarie considerable discounts on the facilities, in comparison to commercial fees, Canarie says. Other bidders included Bell Canada (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), and EastLink, a Canadian cable MSO.

GT Group Telecom uses WaveStart OLS DWDM gear from Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) to supply point-to-point wavelengths for CA*Net4. High-end ONS 15454 routers from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) will feed IP links to the Lucent gear.

The Consumer Powered Network software will interact with the Cisco routers in CA*Net4, Canarie says.

CA*Net4 is similar to other state-subsidized research networks worldwide, including Internet2 in the U.S. and Europe's Dante net. Canarie upgrades Canada's research network by creating a new net every five years, upon getting a renewal of its funding.

The predecessor to CA*Net4, called CA*Net3, was funded with C$55 million in 1998 and built via a C$30 million contract with Bell Canada.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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