When you think of the workspace of a typical solution provider, a server room is probably the first image that comes to mind. However, for Oshawa, Ont.-based Conpute, the answer is just as likely to be a field in a remote area of Canada atop a 150 foot tower.
Conpute, a solution provider specializing in IT infrastructure areas such as managed services, VoIP, wireless broadband, data centre and procurement, has developed a thriving business in wireless broadband and tower solutions. In 2007, Conpute was recognized as Solution Provider of the Year at CDN’s Channel Elite Awards for a body of work that included developing a wireless broadband solution for the Town of Georgina in Ontario’s York Region, a wireless broadband and VoIP solution for the Durham District School Board in Ontario and a disaster recovery solution for Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board in Peterborough, Ont.
The wireless broadband business has continued to grow from there for Conpute, leading to a relationship with OmniGlobe Networks and a five-month project that saw Conpute work with OmniGlobe to build wireless broadband networks in the Country of Perth and the Region of Durham in Ontario, east of Toronto.
“We’ve been involved in wireless projects for well over five years, but the size of the projects has been scaling up as time goes by,” said Conpute president Don Conaby. “We really cut teeth on big broadband projects two years ago with South Shore Community Broadband. Before, we were more corporate in nature.”
OmniGlobe Networks is a Montreal-based telecommunications service provider specializing in bringing service to remote areas that can’t be serviced by traditional terrestrial technologies. After winning several projects as part of an $10-million Ontario government initiative to bring broadband access to remote communities, OmniGlobe turned to Conpute for helping building the towers and designing the network.
Remote wireless broadband was a new space for the company at the time said Mark Morin, OmniGlobe’s vice-president of operations, and at the time Perth and Durham were their largest deployments to date.
“We were looking for a contractor to work with us to build the towers and the network, but also to support us in design and to validate out design,” said Morin. “We were looking for someone with experience with broadband networks, and also for someone to provide a turnkey solution, to take out the complications.”
Following an RFP process, Morin said it was those factors that led to OmniGlobe deciding to work with Conpute: their experience building similar networks, and their willingness to provide a turnkey solution, including taking care of the necessary permitting.
“It wasn’t just putting-up the towers,” said Morin. “It was a complete package that made it very easy for us.”
Conpute’s Conaby said what makes the Perth and Durham projects so special is their sheer scope. Toronto Hydro got a great deal of fanfare for building coverage for a few square kilometers of downtown Toronto. Perth, in contrast, involved 10 towers and broadband coverage for 576 sq. km., while Durham involved 10 sq. hm. of coverage and the custom-rigging of a water tower.
Terry Buchanan, Conpute’s vice-president and CTO, said the projects began in April of 2008, following six to eight months of negotiation to refine the design and OmniGlobe’s specifications, and took five to six months to complete.
“This was the largest project for deployment for OmniGlobe in their history, and they really needed someone that had done this before and could make them look good,” said Buchanan.
The fact nine towers were built in one project makes the scope of the project pretty amazing, said Buchanan, who credits strong project management as key to its successful completion. He said his team was stellar with keeping things on track given the many challenges they faced, from bad weather to a mid-project redesign.
“We’ve been taking an IT best practices project management approach and we’ve layered that into our product development capacity to deliver really effective offerings,” said Buchanan. “That’s one reason why we’re able to deliver so quickly.”
Based on the success of the Perth and Durham projects, both OmniGlobe and Conpute say they’ll be working together more in the future.
“Conpute was always accommodating, responsive and professional. When problems came up they brought them to our attention and worked with us on solutions, but in general we had very few problems,” said Morin. “Based on that experience, we’ve designated them as a strategic partner for future implementations and ongoing support.”