Ardicom Digital now open for business

Performance tests go off without a hitch, as northern high-tech firm gets read to wire Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT – Ardicom Digital Communications Ltd.’s concept for the North’s information highway has now passed its tests – and the company is now open for business.

Ardicom submitted a proof-of-concept report to the territorial government last Friday, following a number of technical demonstrations in Yellowknife.

Five of the 58 communities that are to be linked to Ardicom’s high-speed digital communications network are now connected.

“The network has pretty much functioned as we thought it would,” Ardicom’s general manager Ken Todd said.

Talks begin with private clients

Although government offices have yet to start using the new network, Ardicom is ready to begin negotiating with private clients for access to the network.

Todd said Ardicom will negotiate prices with individual clients based on the type of service the clients want, the kind of data they want to transmit, and how often and in what directions the data will flow.

The Ardicom consortium, formed by Arctic Cooperatives Ltd., Northern Aboriginal Services Company (NASCO) and Northwestel, won a contract with the GNWT last spring to design and build an information “pipeline” in the NWT to support such services as videoconferencing, telemedicine, distance education and the Internet.

The GNWT has agreed to be the main, “anchor” client for the network, an arrangement that is expected to allow smaller users to gain more affordable access to high-speed telecommunications services.

Within communities, Ardicom may provide its services either through the Arctic Co-op’s cable network, or, in some communities, through Northwestel’s telephone network.

Ardicom fell behind its original schedule for completing the network in September after the unexpected departure of a senior manager.

But Todd said at least 16 communities will be wired before Christmas, and that all 58 NWT communities will be wired by the middle of 1998.

“We’re on track,” Todd said.

Special equipment has so far been succesfully installed in Iqaluit, in Fort Smith, Hay River, Rae Edzo and in Yellowknife, the hub of Ardicom’s so-called frame relay network.

Todd explained that a frame relay network allows different “packets” of data to move through the network at the same time. Each individual piece of data has an “address” attached to it that directs the data to the correct location.

The company has already staged several demonstrations of its technology in Yellowknife, including the network’s telemedicine and distance-education applications.

Last week, to demonstrate the network’s telemedicine application, Ardicom technicians created a so-called “double-satellite hop” between the Stanton Regional Hospital and the Stuart Hodgson Building in Yellowknife.

“The double-satellite-hop video-conferencing that we have done will be exactly the same as it will be in the field,” Todd said.

Double-satellite hop describes the path that information delivered over the Ardicom network follows.

“If you were looking to communicate from Gjoa Haven to Pond Inlet, you would go up to the satellite from Gjoa, come down in Yellowknife, back up to the satellite, then come down in Pond Inlet,’ Todd said. “Hence, double-satellite hop.”

Government offices will not be connected to the new telecommunications network until the GNWT has completed its own tests in the communities.

“We’ve done ours, and we’re satisfied with the performance. But GNWT has to work that out and they’re going to work that out for all of their locations,” Todd said.

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