Starcom International Optics Corporation

Starcom International Optics Corporation, an ambitious, private (look for the IPO to soon hit the markets), family-controlled company based in Vancouver, B.C., has teamed up with U.S. based AT&T Capital to assist with financing and construction of a 622 megabit fibre optic ATM switched link between Vancouver and Seattle. Total costs have been estimated at close to US$25 million. AT&T’s “true wave” fibre is said to be the fastest of current technology available.

4993984209_bf9589e2b4The connection will be most beneficial for corporate users of the Internet enabling them to bypass all of the bandwidth congestion originating from Vancouver en route to the U.S. backbone. Users connected to the Starcom backbone will now be able to connect directly to the Internet in Vancouver, instead of hopping down to several access points in the U.S. Keep in mind the level of service connection from your corporate provider will still have an affect on the speed of data transfer from your corporate LAN out to the Starcom link.

This Canadian first is attributable to the determination of Starcom’s twin brothers, Brent (President) and Brian (Vice President of Operations) Connors. Although hordes of technowizard millionaires have surfaced in the past Net-hyped two years, we found the Connors brothers to be conservative, meticulous and almost shy with all the industry attention focused on them.

Internet News recently interviewed Brent Connors to provide you with more insight and detail concerning their new Vancouver-Seattle link.

IN:

What exactly is so unique about the Starcom ATM link, with respect to other similar Canadian ventures?

Connors:

The Starcom backbone fiber connection and ATM link is the only contiguous single vendor connection between Canada and the United States.

IN:

Could you please detail for the benefit of the reader, some of the technical and political obstacles that the company encountered during the project? Would you approach it any differently today?

Connors:

The Starcom Fiber One route involved a complex series of regulatory, ecological, archaeological, First Nations and right of way negotiations which took three years to complete. Imagine negotiating with every town, city, municipality and First Nations band between Vancouver and Seattle. The line had to be constructed over and through every type of terrain imaginable. Most of these communities are so sick and tired of having their roads dug up, that it was a miracle we received all of our permits. as the various bureaucracies have gained considerably more experience in dealing with their value added assets. To repeat the process would very likely be significantly more difficult and time consuming,

IN:

In lay terms, what is ATM and what are some of the features of the Starcom fiber link to Seattle?

Connors:

ATM is emerging as the industry standard for the transmission of all forms of information. It essentially delivers efficiencies which result in lowering the unit cost of transmission services. Starcom, with its’ ATM system, is able to deliver much higher speeds of connections to the Internet and other communications service at rates which are very competitive when compared with current vendors selling at much lower speeds and less flexible service types.

IN:

Some communications analysts mention ATM in an almost reverent tone, like the saviour of network bottlenecks, but the current costs to revamp the telco infrastructure to accommodate ATM, ADSL and so many other technologies designed to move information at tremendous speeds is enormous. At the same time, IS managers will be careful to deploy ATM until much testing and evaluation has been done. Any idea how long it will be until ATM is widely deployed?

Connors:

ATM is presently very much a part of most of the world’s telecommunications backbones. Its deployment from the backbone down to the desktop is a function of applications development, technological evolution (hardware cost reduction) and marketing. Its current status in the industry is firm, but as more cost effective bandwidth becomes available ATM will compete well against emerging challengers such as gigabyte ethernet.

IN:

Most corporate users are finding increasing demands for additional bandwidth across their networks, especially in light of converging technologies. The day is here where CFO’s also want to squeeze costs and they expect vendors to implement solutions that will move all communications traffic: voice, fax, mail, video and data. In the local Vancouver context, how much of an impact will the Starcom pipe have on traffic flows?

Connors:

Starcom-AccessPoint is a fully autonomous extension of the Internet (the only one of its kind in Vancouver) and as a result, Internet users on our network hit the Internet in Vancouver and not at some point in the U.S., as is the case with other Canadian providers.

The AccessPoint connection is one router hop from any of the major Network Access Points (NAP) on the Internet. AccessPoint is also connected to the Internet at 155Megabits per second, as compared to 45Megabits per second available from current access providers such as UUNET.

The benefits that this brings to the user whose Internet Service Provider is attached to the AccessPoint, are much faster files transfers and faster screen fills for web surfing. For the provider using the AccessPoint connection, the quality of service should allow them to attract more customers and allow them to add value to their services.

IN:

And with more customers, come more support concerns. How has a smaller company like Starcom addressed the issue of network support at the customer level?

Connors:

Starcom has seven by twenty four support on its backbone through the AT&T Network Operations Center located in Phoenix, Arizona. That means your provider will likely be aware of any technical concern on our network before the user discovers it. Additional customer support will also be available locally 24×7.

IN:

Many wide area networking providers are utilizing frame relay backbones. Do you foresee the migration from frame to ATM for such products as video and voice over frame?

Connors:

Frame relay enjoys a very solid foothold in the marketplace now, and with plans to deploy even faster frame backbones (45megabit per second), ATM will likely evolve on more of a parallel path with a specific product portfolio. Convergence of some of the applications is probably inevitable but there will be a niche for both technologies for some time to come yet.

IN:

Speaking of inevitable, with most Internet users still struggling with 14.4 and 28.8 modem access to the Internet, do you foresee a day when Starcom will figure a way to sell connectivity directly to the end user, as an ISP would?

Connors: From Starcom’s perspective, an end user is anyone who subscribes to our service. Whether or not Starcom sells directly to the desktop is impossible to predict at this point, but at this time it seems unlikely that we will. Rather we will rely upon the companies that we have Strategic Alliances with to deliver services to the desktop while using Starcom bandwidth to transport the services.

IN:

That’s a politically safe answer. Thank-you very much for sharing time with us.