Edmonton government deploys free-space optical network

Jan. 27, 2005
LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., 26 January 2005. Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) has installed Canada's first Canon Canobeam DT-130 to provide Gigabit connectivity via Free Space Optics between its newly renovated offices.

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., 26 January 2005. Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) has installed Canada's first Canon Canobeam DT-130 to provide Gigabit connectivity via Free Space Optics between its newly renovated offices.

EEDC, an independent corporation owned by the city of Edmonton, Alberta recently relocated its main offices to a renovated heritage building 500 meters (547 yards) down the street. They sought to extend network operations by implementing a high-speed data link between the two locations. As it turned out, however, it was too expensive and difficult to run a fiber connection between the office buildings.

"Local estimates for new fiber connections were cost-prohibitive in this instance," said John Kratochvil, EEDC's Director of Information Technology. "So we began looking for an alternate, innovative solution."

EEDC outlined several requirements that any proposed solution would have to meet. First, they needed a performance minimum of 100 Mbps. Second, the link had to be highly secure.

"Security is always a priority as our high-profile company manages sensitive information," said Kratochvil. "For many of our mission-critical applications we felt radio was simply not secure enough for our downtown offices because it bounces off everything."

In addition, the new office was in a city-protected historical landmark that had been unoccupied for seven years. The heritage building lacked a data infrastructure and to build one would have been a very expensive undertaking. Glentel Inc., a systems integrator for Canon, brought the Canobeam to Kratchovil's attention.

"We are excited about the cost savings and performance enhancements afforded through this technology," Brian Napier, Director of Market Development for Glentel Inc. in Edmonton said. "We strive to ensure that our clients are able to realize competitive advantages through their telecommunications infrastructure. EEDC is enjoying this telecommunications advantage and is now setting new business communication standards in Canada."

"Situations like the one at the EEDC are becoming more common," Bruce Olynik, Area Sales Vice President for Optelligence Canada, the marketing support for Canon said. "Add the benefits of utilizing light to transmit data with an affordable price tag, and Canon has made Free Space Optics a powerfully viable option for any organization seeking building-to-building network connectivity."

Canon's Canobeam Free Space Optics system uses a line-of-sight beam of light to transmit data at up to 1.25 Gbps at Gigabit Ethernet speeds. Because Canobeam does not use radio waves, its use does not require radio-frequency licenses, it can be set up quickly, and the data it transmits is secure and can't be intercepted. In addition, Canobeam's exclusive Auto Tracking function automatically adjusts the light beam to compensate for even the slightest variations in the installation base (due to building or traffic vibrations, temperature changes, or wind) and maintain a perfect line-of-sight Free Space Optical connection.

The Canobeam DT-130, which offers economical Gigabit Ethernet connectivity for a capital investment and no subsequent usage charges easily met EEDC's demanding technical requirements. Glentel Inc. also had the units up and running in a matter of days.

"The guys at Glentel did a very good job installing the DT-130 and they provided us with a level of service that met our expectations," Kratochvil said. "Too often technology gives you a suitcase full of oversized expectations. Canobeam, however, is doing exactly what Canon said it would at an optimal level."

Kratochvil added: "What helped seal the deal for us is the fact that we will end up owning the equipment. If a similar situation ever occurs again we can just reposition the Canobeam. It's a real win-win scenario for us."

Trial by Water: Canobeam Put to the Test

Within a few weeks of Canobeam's installation, Edmonton experienced a torrential rainfall that significantly affected much of the city. The 150 millimeters (5.9 inches) of rain that fell in less than two hours put about one-third of the city under water and was described by some forecasters as a once-in-200-year storm.

"This storm was enough to put any system to the test and many parts of the city experienced some type of communication failure," Kratochvil said. "The Canobeam, however, never experienced a hiccup. Since then I haven't worried about it because it's been so reliable."

Unintended Consequences: End-to-End Gigabit Connectivity

There were several benefits from implementing the Canobeam that Kratochvil did not anticipate. First, because the Canobeam can transmit 1.25 Gigabits in either direction, the DT-130 provided a backbone that gives EEDC end-to-end Gigabit connectivity from their workstation to their server farm. There are no slow-down or stalling systems nodes, which can often occur in networks due to some connections being slower than others.

In addition, EEDC was able to leave its entire server farm in its original location and move 75 percent of its work force to its new building, allowing for their mission-critical infrastructure to remain off site. This arrangement meant that the Canobeam enabled EEDC to provide redundancy without doubling infrastructure costs.

Glentel Inc. is a wireless solution provider for consumers, business, and government. It has to date 92 corporate locations in Canada, including 82 WirelessWave mall-based multi-network cellular stores and ten Wireless Business Centres. Glentel specializes in cellular phones, sales, and rentals of voice/data wireless radio equipment, engineered wireless systems, and national Motorola radio service, and operates corporately owned fixed/mobile terrestrial and satellite wireless systems in Canada and the United States.

Canon U.S.A., Inc. delivers consumer, business-to-business, and industrial imaging solutions. The Company is listed as one of Fortune's Most Admired Companies in America, and is rated #35 on the BusinessWeek list of "Top 100 Brands." Its parent company Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ) is a top-patent holder of technology, ranking second overall in the U.S. in 2003, with global revenues of $29.9 billion. For more information, see www.usa.canon.com.

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