The Canadian North is known for its frozen tundra, glacial waters and striking wildlife -- but not necessarily for next-generation communications technology. But with its new software-defined infrastructure coupled with virtualized technology, CSP Iristel soon will deliver reliable, New IP service to the hardy souls, businesses and government agencies that call the region home.
Fast-growing Iristel is investing in the IP network of sister company ICE Wireless to dramatically enhance services in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Northern Quebec, Canada. Through implementation of the NetNumber TITAN platform, ICE also plans to meet new federal criteria and set a strong foundation to meet fast-growing demand for Internet of Things services, Samer Bishay, president and CEO of Iristel and ICE, tells the New IP Agency.
"This is going to be a huge jump for a lot of these Canadians living in this area, who didn't have access to a smartphone, and will go from [virtually] nothing to a full LTE data network. I think it'll be a nice reward just to see their reactions," he says.
A Foundation for Change
The Canadian government's growing investment in IoT in areas such as Inuvik creates an opportunity for CSPs like Iristel and sister firm ICE, which are leveraging virtualization to create scalable, flexible and reliable networks across Northern Canada. (Source: YukonInfo.com)
(Home page art source: Dawsonesque at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Better cellphone offerings are not the sole reason for the investment. Iristel Inc.
-- which relies solely on wireless IP for offerings such as hosted IP PBX, virtual faxing, virtual roaming and global IP trunking products and services through wholesale carrier, retail services and enterprise solutions divisions -- predicts huge demand for Internet of Things in its areas of coverage, says Bishay.
Iristel tapped NetNumber to give the service provider the flexibility to scale for IoT applications, Bishay says. A hardware-based solution would be unable to provide the same kind of flexibility, requiring prior forecasting to prevent the equipment from becoming obsolete quickly. That's a particular concern with IoT and on-demand applications, especially in rural Canada, with a large volume of sensors deployed. "There are a lot of sensors being deployed to monitor, whether it's weather, activity, natural resources, new applications, mining -- whatever it is that you're trying to track up there. Even though the population of Northern Canada is only about 100,000, you're probably going to have millions of devices connecting because of all the different data. Being able to predict, sitting here in 2016, what things are going to look like in 2018, I don't believe will be too accurate. Having that flexibility down the road based on software was key to us," he says.
Virtualization was a natural fit for Iristel's expansive geographic reach, says Brad Boston, president and CEO of
NetNumber Inc. , in an interview. Traditional and proprietary infrastructure is too costly, inflexible and difficult to manage for a region that spans thousands of miles of sometimes uninhabited areas, he says.
"They have a unique challenge due to the geographical expanse they have to cover and the way they have to connect their far-flung network back to their headquarters location, and therefore you have to think about problems more creatively. So they're driven by cost. They're driven by IoT," says Boston.
Building to digital disruption
Founded in 1999, Iristel evolved from a small startup into an international CSP that uses technology as a differentiator, says Bishay. Having first relied on IP to separate itself from competitors, the operator now sees virtualization as the path to new services and enhanced customer experiences, he says. To find the best solution, Iristel ranked criteria such as high availability, reliability, scalability and power usage, says Bishay.
"Our main concern was, being in rural Canada all the way to Arctic Canada, it has to have high availability. It has to be unattended. It has to be a compact form factor. It can't use a lot of power. Power is an issue up there. So there are a lot of factors that came into play, and the NetNumber TITAN product actually fit all of the above with flying colors," he says. "At its core, it's software-upgradeable, it's modular. The way TITAN is built is, it is little modules that you spin up on that virtualized environment and you're able to future-proof completely. Rural Canada is now able to get LTE Advanced, which not even carriers in the Canadian South have."
The CSP expects NetNumber's platform to help it meet the requirements of the Connecting Canadians initiative, a federal program that splits the cost of building broadband infrastructure to speeds of at least 5 Mbit/s in areas of slow or no service -- regions such as rural Canada that Iristel targets. In 2016, Canada's government said it would invest up to $500 million ($381 million US) over five years to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities. By meeting or surpassing these deliverables, Iristel will earn some of that money, says Bishay.
To prepare Iristel for self-sufficiency, NetNumber's team worked closely with the CSP's employees, providing documentation and training plus insight into how TITAN integrates with Iristel's other software, Bishay says. The two companies are considering other potential applications for the future, says Boston.
"There is going to be more and more distributed architecture instead of macro-type deployments, whether it's deploying small eco-cells that provide resources on soldiers' backpacks or whatever it is," says Bishay. "That's where the whole industry is headed and we want to be at the forefront of it, and I think we've got the right technology and core to make that happen."
— Alison Diana, Editor, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.