Local telecom company investing millions in fibre network

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Windsor Star/Sarah Sacheli

In pockets of homes throughout Windsor, LaSalle, Tecumseh and Lakeshore, a Windsor telecom company is laying the groundwork for the fastest Internet service available.

MNSi Telecom is spending about $5 million a year installing fibre optic lines locally. It’s in anticipation of Bell and other so-called “incumbents” taking advantage of new CRTC rules allowing them to charge higher fees for the use of their aging network.

“We’re going to own our infrastructure right to the customer,” said Clayton Zekelman, MNSi’s president and owner.

MNSi’s fibre offers Internet speeds of up to one gigabyte per second (1 Gbps). It will support download speeds of up to 940 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 100 Mbps. Services start at just under $60 per month, with the unlimited 1 Gbps package priced at $150 per month.

The service is already available to about 20,000 homes and businesses in Walkerville, Oldcastle and East Windsor. The network is under construction in South Windsor now, with some areas south of Norfolk Avenue already lit.

The goal is to have all of Windsor serviced by 2020.

As MNSi finishes servicing an area, workers hang calling cards on the front doors advising people how to sign up. Almost all homeowners have agreed to have lines brought to the outside of their houses regardless of whether they intend to sign up and pay for the service. A fraction of homeowners are using the service, but Zelkelman hopes up to 4,000 more customers will sign on within the next year.

“We have to design it like every house is going to sign up,” he said.

For example, in South Windsor, there’s a wooded area where no development is as yet slated. MNSi is installing a fibre network capable of servicing any homes built there in the future.

With the exception of repairing damage from pesky squirrels or acts of God like the tornado that affected a handful of MNSi’s customers in August, the fibre optic cable won’t ever have to be replaced, Zekelman said.

“This cable will be good for the rest of our lifetimes.”

Each cable contains 576 or 864 strands of glass. Each strand can serve 32 houses. That’s up to 27,648 homes serviced with Internet with a single cable.

Streaming video from sources like Netflix and YouTube is currently responsible for about 60 per cent of traffic. The MNSi fibre optic cables will be able to handle increases as homes become more automated under a concept referred to as the Internet of Things, and the live-streaming of video from, say, a home security system becomes more prevalent.

“The cable can handle it. You just need to change the electronics at each end,” Zekelman said.

Zekelman founded Managed Network Systems Incorporated in 1995, offering Internet, and later, telephone services. MNSi is in the process of buying a Peterborough-based company that provides Internet-protocol television, or IPTV. Its network consists of connections between the main data centre near the former Hotel-Dieu hospital site to five Bell Canada switching centres. That “backbone” has been replaced with fibre optic cable that now branches off into individual neighbourhoods.

Zekelman prides himself on being a locally-owned and operated company. When customers need technical support, they can call a local number that connects to employees in MNSi’s Tecumseh Road East office, not some call centre overseas.

Most of the calls these days are from existing customers or potential customers clamouring for the faster fibre service before it has even reached their neighbourhoods.

“We tell them it’s coming. We’re working as fast as we can,” Zekelman said. “It’s not just flipping a switch. We have to build a new infrastructure.”