My Canada Trip and Nortel Wrap Up

I am back from Canada and the first thing I did when turning on my phone was praise the engineers who came up with the awkward-sounding acronym called EVDO. By the way in my discussions in Canada it seems the people who told me Rogers will be offering EVDO are wrong as Rogers uses GSM/GPRS and their evolution is to LTE – which coincidentally stands for long term evolution.

Bell Mobility is going to be upgrading to EVDO according to my sources and moreover the high price for wireless access is explained by Canadian analysts as the problem of providing access to an entire country where only a fraction of the land is inhabited. Apparently country-wide access is mandated. Oh – and it also seems that Bell Mobility is intentionally throttling bandwidth to what I would have to say are inhumane levels.

One of my most memorable moments these last few days was driving from Ottawa to Montreal and back. The route is not much different looking than driving on I287 from Connecticut to New Jersey. Except of course there is no mall the size of an airport on the left.

Another curiosity is the signage on the interstate (inter-province?) as it seems the deer crossing sign which shows a deer jumping at a 90 degree angle seems to be accompanied by a moose crossing sign which shows the moose lazily galloping across the highway.

Sadly, I did not see a moose. I have always wanted to. Perhaps this desire is spurred by an old Canadian beer commercial – I am not sure.

I already posted (UC demo,virtual worlds, telepresence demo) about my Nortel experience and the rest of the day consisted of seeing applications in hotels and healthcare. You saw the telepresence photos and this was certainly an impressive part of the tour. The cost for such a system is about$250K-$400K or so and when there are four screens going at once you feel like the other room is connected. In addition, the audio quality is far better than what you would hear when a person speaks live.

I also saw an optical demonstration of how Nortel designed DSPs are able to take fiber strands pumping 40 Gbps and clean up the signals in a dramatic fashion. These tests were on fibers which once only carried 10 Gbps. I was also told that some carriers are now using this equipment to transmit 40 Gbps on degraded fiber that could not transmit anywhere near these levels of traffic in the past.

The product name is the 40G/100G Adaptive Optical Engine and as the name suggests it can deliver up to 100 Gbps.

One of the people at Nortel referred to his country as the best kept secret in telecom and this is not unusual for a tech company as many of them are obsessed with engineering at the expense of a focus on awareness.

The company’s goal is to change this perception and they have an ad campaign where they take on Cisco – showing how much more energy efficient their products are. Perhaps as the price of energy rises, this differentiator will continue to boost the company’s fortunes. It is worth pointing out that even if energy prices stay stable or go down, there are data centers which have to deal with the inability to get any more power and subsequently are looking for more energy-efficient equipment.

One thing is for certain – Nortel has an absolutely bewildering array of products and I didn’t even get a chance to see what they are doing in WiFi, WiMax and 4G. At one point on my tour I walked by a tower filled with a bewildering assortment of antennas – a testament to just how many disparate products the company is juggling.

Going forward the company is in a great position to capitalize on the breadth of the product line and leverage the technologies to aid one another. The challenge of course is any company of substantial size has divisions which don’t always communicate well with one another.

So in the end, Nortel continues to be an excellent engineering company with tremendous potential to cross sell its products and improve its brand awareness among buyers. Based on my meetings I see the company stepping up its marketing and engineering and I look forward to seeing how the company’s various initiatives turn into sales and profits.

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