NWT’s digital network late, but still on track

First 21 communities will be wired by the new year, as planned, Ardicom chief Ken Todd says


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Ardicom Digital Communications Ltd. is ready to put its concept for the NWT’s information highway to the test.

The consortium formed by Arctic Cooperatives Ltd., the Northern Aboriginal Services Company (NASCO) and Northwestel is currently awaiting delivery of special switching equipment built by Northern Telecom.

When the order arrives, the equipment will be put together and tested in Yellowknife before being shipped to communities this fall.

Ken Todd, Ardicom’s general manager, said the project fell a few weeks behind schedule this summer, but the first 21 communities slated for connection to the two-way, high-speed digital communications network will be connected before year’s end.

Iqaluit, Hay River, Rae-Edzo the first

“We’d initially hoped to have Iqaluit, Hay River and Rae-Edzo completed by mid-September. That’s not going to happen now. It’s going to be more like the first week of October,” Todd said.

Ardicom is under contract by the GNWT to connect 58 communities in the Northwest Territories to the network, which will support such information services as videoconferencing, telemedicine, distance education and the Internet.

Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., meanwhile, is preparing to offer municipal-area network services via coxial cable, which could increase communication speed to 10 megabits per second locally.

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

Which communities get the faster delivery of data will depend on how much the GNWT is willing to spend on access for schools, hospitals, nursing stations and government offices.

Up to the GNWT

That decision will likely be made after the departments of health and education have finished mapping out the kind of services they want, and how they’ll be distributed.

“The issue will be to what extent does the GNWT want to invest in that kind of opportunity in specific communities,” Todd said.

“We have been having discussions with GNWT and there is some interest in that in a couple of the locations. In other locations it would probably be 1.544 megabits per second.”

Once it’s up and running, Ardicom’s frame-relay network will be available to local Internet service providers, too. They will be offered access to Ardicom’s larger capacity “information pipelines” into the communities, which in turn could boost the quality of service to individual clients.

Todd said Internet providers will be able to choose between a 64-kilobit pipe and a 128-kilobit pipe.

Ardicom’s frame-relay installation in each community will contain two main components: a so-called Passport switch, built by Northern Telecom, and a unit called a frame-unit access device or FRAD, which converts conventional data traffic into frame-relay format.

The Ardicom equipment is to be installed in each community alongside Northwestel’s telephone switching stations, Todd said.

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