VCom Makes Connection with SaskTel Subsidiary

December 14, 2004

Release Date: December 14, 2004

A Saskatoon manufacturer of wireless Internet hardware continues to cement its relationship with SaskTel.

VCom Inc. announced Monday it has a technology development deal with one of the Crown phone company’s main subsidiaries.

Navigata Communications, a wholly owned SaskTel subsidiary that competes for telecom services in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, joined VCom in issuing a joint press release. It means VCom will be the primary equipment supplier for an installation in Kamloops that will bring a WiMAX wireless connection to the city. The deal was announced as a partnership arrangement with no details on the value of the equipment VCom will deliver to the project.

In July, VCom inked a supplier agreement with SaskTel that will see the company deliver up to $9 million in wireless equipment in Saskatchewan over the next five years as SaskTel extends wireless, high-speed Internet access to areas of the province where it does not make economic sense to install land-based technologies.

SaskTel also gained the right last summer to buy up a VCom subsidiary which is providing wireless, high-speed Internet access to a limited number of Saskatchewan communities in a company called YourLink.

The Navigata installation in B.C. will allow a high-speed wireless connection for laptop computers and handheld Internet devices for an approximate radius of 25 kilometres. The WiMAX service, the first installation in Canada within that relatively new wireless protocol, can offer bandwidth as high as three megabytes per second on the 3500 megahertz band.

According to several websites where discussions of wireless technology are posted, WiMAX is considered a major step forward from WiFi technology installed in many cities. WiFi technology has a much shorter range and less capacity.

VCom Inc., originally known as Wavecom Electronics, has a major manufacturing facility on Cardinal Crescent in the airport industrial area that employs 450 people. The company’s founder, Surinder Kumar, is based at a corporate head office and research centre in Victoria, B.C.

According to a corporate press release, VCom considers the Kamloops installation with Navigata a showcase of its wireless technology as it moves into the WiMAX protocol.

“This partnership allows us to continue the research and development required for the general commercialization of VCom’s WiMAX products,” Kumar stated in a press release.

SaskTel’s new president and CEO Robert Watson described Navigata, based in Vancouver, as “core to SaskTel’s business” and a “strategic component” in SaskTel’s overall business plan. However, Navigata has yet to turn a profit and had full-year losses of $13.5 million and $11.5 million in 2002 and 2003. A further loss is expected in 2004.

“This partnership with VCom to deploy leading edge technology will assist Navigata and SaskTel in finding new ways to serve residents in their respective provinces,” Watson stated Monday.

If the Navigata-VCom installation proves successful in Kamloops, Navigata president Daryl Silzer says the company will look at expansion of WiMAX wireless Internet elsewhere in B.C. and Alberta.

Murray Lyons
The StarPhoenix
Tuesday, December 14, 2004

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2004