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THTI’s One Zone project expected to debut Sept. 6

Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc. (THTI) is scheduled to go live on Sept. 6 with the first of five Wi-Fi technology rollouts this year that will tap into the company's existing and under-utilized fiber optic...


September 1, 2006  


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Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc. (THTI) is scheduled to go live on Sept. 6 with the first of five Wi-Fi technology rollouts this year that will tap into the company’s existing and under-utilized fiber optic network.

The telecommunications subsidiary of Toronto Hydro Corp., which owns more than 450 kilometres of fiber, is currently installing radio access points (RAPs) on streetlight poles throughout a six square kilometer area in Toronto’s downtown core in order to create what it says will be the largest Wi-Fi zone in Canada.

Known as One Zone, the first phase will be located in the city’s financial district and provide anyone working or living in the area with the ability to place VoIP phone calls and access the Internet from wireless-enabled laptop computers and mobile devices for free for the first six months.

The SeaBoard Group, a Toronto research and consulting firms, says that Wi-Fi technology is changing the way Canadians view their landline connections. Seaboard is predicting that by 2008, 13% of the substitution of landlines by wireless will be in the business market.

Sharyn Gravelle, the firm’s vice president of wireless, told reporters at a technical briefing held in July that subscriber targets and user fees will be announced once services are available.

Company officials said earlier this year that four packages will be available and rates will be competitive with Bell Canada, Rogers and Telus.

Plans call for 235 city blocks to have Wi-Fi coverage via 225 RAPs and 25 fiber connection points installed on poles owned by Toronto Hydro Streetlighting Inc.

In May, THTI announced that Siemens Communications Group, a division of Siemens Canada Ltd., will be the vendor of record for equipment, implementation and services. The agreement includes installation of a mesh network

Phil Vlach, the technical lead on the project, said that meshing between access points will reduce a major expense in the network, namely installing wired fiber connections.

“One of the biggest cost drivers for us is taking the data wirelessly and then putting it into the ground on to our fiber network,” he said at the briefing.

“We call that a fiber inter-connection point. What it means is that at some time, an access point has to route that data back and forth on to a fiber wired connection, which can be quite expensive. Instead of wiring up each access point we link them together and aggregate the traffic at the fiber interconnection point and then go into the ground.

“It cut our costs, but at the same time, the network is self-healing in a way. If we lose a node or a link temporarily it has the smarts to re-route traffic automatically.”

THTI’s primary source of income is its fiber optic network, which currently connects an estimated 400 commercial buildings in Toronto.