ISP Summit – Day 2


The Canadian telecom and Internet regulatory model is broken. The basic premise is that the regulator, the CRTC, puts rules in place to support market and consumer choice. This can be traced back to the original resale and sharing rules from the 1980’s and then Decision 92-12 that opened up the long distance market to competition. But currently independent Internet service providers cant get reasonable access to the oligopoly fibre access to the home.

I personally ran into this situation when I sold my long time home back in 2014 and moved into a new apartment building that was wired with fibre from Bell and Rogers. I wanted to get internet service from my long time provider, Packetworks. But I could not as the telcos were not required to provide access to their fibre networks. Even after a decision in 2015 that was ostensibly to open up the market to choice by forcing the oligopoly to resell their fiber access networks, the rules are so arcane that it is not cost effective for a competitive provider to gain access.

In our new home, I was able to get Internet service from TekSavvy using the existing cable TV network for access. I am partial to the 150 MB download speed and the unlimited usage that TekSavvy offers. There will come a time though, and probably soon because I work from home, that I will want to upgrade the download speed and that will require fibre optic access. If the rules don’t change I will be limited to having to get service from Bell or Rogers and won’t be able to support independent Internet service providers. I won’t have a choice. That has to change.

That is why I have decided to join CNOC, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium. CNOC is the organization that puts on the Canadian Internet Summit each year. It represents over 35 independent internet service providers like TekSavvy, Distributel and Primus. CNOC fights for fair rules from the CRTC, not just for its members, but for all Canadians. My entire 35 year career in telecom has always been on the competitive side so this seemed like a natural move. I can’t just sit on the sidelines and let others just fight on my behalf, it is time to take a stand.

Will you join me ?

ISP Summit – Day 1


The obligatory pre-conference photo !

Beyond Connectivity
Those were the words of Matt Stein, the President and Chair of CNOC to open this years ISP Summit. The opening day had some great keynotes about Data Privacy, AI and machine learning as well as the challenges of providing Internet everywhere, including remote fly-in only areas of Canada.

There was ample networking at this sold-out event; a cocktail reception sponsored by TorIX and QIX, dinner by TekSavvy and an after party by SmartRG thatI was smart enough to not attend . There are times I have to acknowledge my own limits ! Thank you to all the sponsors for making this event so special.

The ISP Summit is an interesting contrast to the Canadian Telecom Summit. It is smaller, cosier, homier, with ample networking opportunities to meet people from across the country and across the industry. Monday was no exception as I had multiple meetings and conversations throughout the day with people I had only connected with before on social media. There is nothing like being able to have face-to-face , live conversations to help each other solve business issues.

I’ll report back tomorrow, the lights are dimming for the first speaker of the day !

PS Thanks to TekSavvy for sponsoring my “office” away from home too !

Who wore it better ?

I posted this earlier last week on LinkedIn and Twitter. In September I had some new social media profile pictures taken, and for the last few we had a little bit of fun. I emulated the iconic picture of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, looking all jacked.

So who wore it better , me or Bezos ?

A big thank you to Ema Suvajac for the great photos, and to my trainer Matt Daciw at Titan Training for the changes in body composition.

2018 Canadian ISP Summit


Monday, November 5th, 2018 is the start of this year’s Canadian ISP Summit to be held at the Toronto Mariott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel. Designed for Internet Service Providers (large and small) from across the country, the Canadian ISP Summit is a conference that allows attendees to learn, grow and network in the Internet and data networking field.

It is put on by CNOC, The Canadian Network Operators Consortium Inc. There are three days filled with keynotes, panels, general sessions and lightning talks. There will be technical sessions, business related sessions and some superb regulatory discussions. There are plenty of opportunities to network before and after sessions, during coffee breaks and meals as well as cocktail receptions and fabulous dinners.

I have been lucky enough to attend two of the last three ISP Summits and will be attending again this year. It gives me an opportunity to focus on the data side of AurorA’s business. International telecommunications is more than just voice termination; AurorA also provides international data services such as MPLS, SD-WAN and even private line bandwidth up the wavelength level. The Summit energizes me, educates me and introduces me to data and ISP industry people from across Canada.

This year I will be trying something new by blogging from the conference. My goal is to post a summary each night of some of the more significant talks, discussion and events of the Summit that I feel would be relevant to you, my readers, specifically from an international telecom perspective.

Hopefully, I will see you live at the Canadian ISP Summit. If not, then check in here in early November for my updates from #ISPSummit. If there is something specific you would like me to cover then leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter (@TimoVainionpaa)

i3Forum and the Fight Against Fraud

In 2007, eight of the world’s leading carriers set up the i3Forum. It was initially meant to expedite the international telecommunication’s industry to IP but has since broadened its mission. The i3forum’s approach is open, simple and pragmatic and it aims to;

• Represent : the views of the International Carrier Ecosystem
• Bring together : focus on topics that require joint work and collaboration across the Ecosystem
• Transform : enable and facilitate the role of carriers in the timely emergence of new ecosystems, and new technical, operational and commercial models
• Guide : publish recommendations for industry Stakeholders
• Share : foster cooperation and sharing of best practices between industry stakeholders
• Educate : contribute to the industry learning on these topics
• Inform : provide market research, case studies, position papers…

The i3forum now has 29 members including such major carriers as AT&T, iBasis, Telefonica, Orange, Tata, T-systems, Vodafone and others.

The i3forum has a roadmap and focuses on a few key topics that require industry collaboration . The one that is near and dear to AurorA’s heart is the Fight against Fraud.

Fraud in international telecommunications is a huge and growing issue. Hackers and criminal gangs now make more money from Telecom Fraud than they do selling illegal drugs. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by any one single carrier; we need to work together as an industry to combat this scourge.

I am honoured and humbled to announce that AurorA International Telecommunications Inc. has been accepted into the i3forum as a member, specifically as a “Friend of i3forum” . AurorA believes and supports what the i3forum is trying to accomplish, especially in the Fight against Fraud. I hope to be able to get information, updates and best practices and also be able to contribute where I can. On social media, and here on this blog, AurorA plans to promote the i3forum and its objectives.

Thank you to the i3forum. Stay tuned to this blog as we continue to share information with you on how to combat telecom fraud.

Give Thanks for Protection from Telecom Fraud


It is an unfortunate fact that the hackers of the world like to plan their attacks on public holidays when network supervision may not be at its highest.

Please remember to be vigilant this Thanksgiving Weekend and guard access to your switches. For those in Kitchener/Waterloo, enjoy the Gemütlichkeit of Oktoberfest, but please be careful to ensure your network is protected first before indulging.

AurorA has to deliver any traffic that is sent to it , so you are responsible for any unauthorized access to your network. AurorA will pass on any alerts that it gets of suspicious traffic patterns. AurorA has also implemented automatic blocking of B numbers once we detect a suspicious fraudulent traffic pattern in an attempt to minimize losses.

As highlighted on this blog AurorA has taken other steps such as the weekly reports of suspicous blocked call attempts, an industry leading robust and accurate dial plan and intensified focus on high quality terminating routes.

We will stay vigilant, it is part of the value add of sending all your international traffic to AurorA.
Premium quality and the best mitigation of fraud.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving long weekend !

Timo Vainionpaa

How We Can Win

As usual a good part of my summer relaxation was reading. While on vacation in the Spectacular Northwest Territories I indulged in fiction (Neil Gaiman who is a favourite of mine, Jo Nesbo for spare Nordic crime stories and a Young Adult book “Gregor, the Overlander” from my stepson) as during the year I read mainly non-fiction. My family knows that I love books, so I try to make gift giving easy by having “Wanted Reading” lists prominently posted. One book that I got for Christmas and have been itching to read was Anthony Lacavera’s “How We Can Win – And what happens to us and our country if we don’t” which I finally got to read !

This book is a call for action for all Canadians to Dare to Succeed, to apply the same lessons that we learned in Olympic medal success with our Own the Podium program to our business and economic life. He argues that our future prosperity, and being able to afford all the things we value as Canadians, our social safety net, universal health care, our high quality education system are all dependent on us changing our beliefs and then acting on improving our productivity, innovation and competitiveness. Especially our international competitiveness.

I was lucky enough to have met Anthony Lacavera once in the past, back when Globealive had bought Yak, around 2008. He was very smart, friendly and engaging. Plus I have heard him speak at the Canadian Telecom Summit many times when he was running WIND, the scrappy cellphone company that was challenging the Bell/Telus/Rogers mobile oligopoly . As my entire career in telecom has been on the competitive side, cutting my teeth during the Long Distance wars back in the early 1990’s I was really anticipating reading the WIND story and learning more details about what actually happened.

The entire first chapter is devoted to WIND and its various trials and tribulations. Some of the anti-competitive roadblocks that WIND ran into challenging the incumbents sounded very familiar. The oligopoly does not play fair when their protected position is threatened. The Federal government and the regulator allow this. Lacavera presents it all as Exhibit A of why our business culture here in Canada has to change if we are to succeed as a nation. Our telecom sector is coddled, not required to compete against the best in the world, and hence our other businesses, enterprises and citizens overpay for substandard services. And since telecom services are THE key input in an information economy it hampers all other sectors ability to innovate, compete and be productive.

Lacavera then proceeds to highlight in subsequent chapters other factors that are holding back Canadians in winning in the global marketplace. He highlights our attitudes and belief systems , the Canadian mentality to “Go for Bronze” or a participation award rather then aiming to win big, as if wanting to come first was “Un Canadian”. The lack of funding available to high growth startups, from angel investors and from venture capital which is much harder to get in Canada. Highly touted Government R&D and innovation programs are designed to maximize political gains and spread large amounts of money around the country, often ineffectively. There is no true policy for identifying sectors or companies that show true promise of being disrupters that can be scaled to tackle global markets.

We have seen some of these arguments before in various studies and expert panels that the Federal government commissions and then ignores or only partially implements. The book does a good job of integrating many of them such as the Jenkins panel in 2011, Naylor in 2015, Wilson in 2008. The book brings all of these and more into one cohernet call for action, not just for government but for all of us.

One of the most positive and optimistic chapters highlights some of the work being done at the Creative Disruption Lab at the University of Toronto. Here start-up founders could get a “dose of judgement” from seasoned entrepreneurs who had “been there, and done that”. They can share their experience, network connections, and judgement with young founders. Start-ups have to compete hard to get into (and stay in the program), as do MBA students, industry types and anyone else who wants to observe. The chapter has some great examples of start-ups that have benefitted and were able to accelerate their growth providing concrete proof that we can do this here.

My only quibble with the book would be a personal one as I live and work in Kitchener/Waterloo. There are many references made to people and companies from Waterloo. Tom Jenkins(Open Text), Jim Balsillie (RIM, Blackberry), Ted Livingston (Kik), Stephen Lake (Thalmic Labs), Mallory Brodie (Bridgit) were some that come to mind. I understand that Anthony Lacavera has ties to Toronto, but I would have expected to read more about the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation that is happening here in Waterloo where world leading companies have already emerged and where we are home to the second highest density of tech start-ups outside of Silicon Valley. A lot of what he is prescribing is actually happening here.

I quite enjoyed this book and whole heartedly recommend it; both for general business audiences but especially to anyone who is an executive in Canadian telecom.

Exploring Canada’s North


I apologize for the lack of posts recently. Summer vacation and back to school and other events took my focus away from blogging. Now I am ready to dive back into it with renewed vim and vigour !

This year for our family vacation we decided to go North, really North. To the Spectacular Northwest Territories.

So in late August we packed our carry-ons and hopped on an early morning plane from Pearson (we were originally booked on a flight from Waterloo Airport but it was cancelled by WestJet) to Calgary and from there to Yellowknife. One note, at Calgary when we changed planes, on the tarmac you could smell the smoke and see the haze on the horizon from the forest fires. I hope those are all extinguished now. Very sobering to see.

Yellowknife was delightful. As soon as you enter the cosy airport you know you are in the North as you are greeted by a huge statue of a polar bear on the ice, chasing some seals. There are furs and antler prominantly displayed. And very down home, friendly people.

We stayed at an AirBNB condo right on Great Slave Lake that was maybe a seven minute drive from the airport. It was in Old Town, where some of the orginal cabins and shacks are still standing. A lot of things were in easy walking distance; great food at places like the Dancing Moose Cafe, Bullock’s Bistro, The Wildcat Cafe and the North’s only brewpub, the Woodyard Brewhouse where we also got a growler to bring back to our condo. A few streets away was the famous Ragged Ass Road; you can buy replicas of the street sign so please dont steal the real ones !

One of the highlights of that area is the Bush Pilots Monument. It is a local monument honouring the bush pilots of today and yesterday, who helped open up the North to the rest of Canada.The monument sits on top of “The Rock”, a six story rock hill in the centre of Old Town. Once you climb up the hundreds of steps, the view from there is fabulous. And you will usually see a float plane or two or three taking off or landing on Great Slave Lake.

We ventured into downtown a few times (including great meals at Coyote’s Bistro on Franklin, thanks again to the owner Ed But and his staff for taking great care of us) to get groceries and supplies for the room and also to explore. We were able to find the school that my wife attended as well as the house they lived in when they were stationed there. It struck me that there were only six traffic lights in total in the town, and at night they all just flashed yellow !

My youngest daughter is a geophysicist working exploration in the North so she flew in from Whitehosre to spend a day with us and show us around too. Her crew bunkhouse was only a few minutes walk from where we were staying. She brought us to Weaver and Devore,a trading post cum outfitters that has been there since 1936 where you can get true outdoor clothing and gear for working in the North. It was great to see the places she had told us about previously including the colourful houses and the houseboats on the lake.

We also did a lot of outdoor adventuring including some kayaking on the lake (trying to avoid a bush plane !) and drove out about 45 km on the Ingraham Trail to Hidden Lake Territorial Park. There we took about a half-hour hike to Cameron Falls (see the picture at the top of this post). We spent a lot of time exploring the falls, and then crossing over a foot-bridge upstream to the other side to explore there too. A lot of the scenery reminded me of Northern Ontario where I grew up. The old rocks of the Canadian Shield and the bush. The trees up in Yellowknife were much smaller though.

A week in Yellowknife is good for the soul. The pace is slower, the air is cleaner. There is no visual pollution from billboards. The locals are laid back and friendly. Late August was a little early to see the aurora borealis (I LOVE that name !) but if you went later in the fall, or definitely during the winter, the light show would be awe inspiring. I highly recommend making the trip North, especially if you are a fan of the outdoors.

Lastly, I promised I would review telecom. I had no problem getting a strong cellphone signal everywhere I went, including out on the Ingraham Trail. It wasnt always LTE, but the 3G was fine. Our AirBNB had satellite TV and great high speed WiFi internet. We did not stream any movies or Netflix (I brought some downloaded movies on my computer for family entertainment at night) rather than abuse my hosts data plan.

Finally, a big thanks to Curtis Shaw, the President of Northwestel, who I met at this year’s Canadian Telecom Summit who gave me some great tips and restaurant recommendations !

Amitel website is now secured

HTTPS

On Aug 1 , Amitel converted it’s website to HTTPS, a secure form of browsing using encryption. You can see this by the little lock icon in the search bar of whichever browser you are using to read this blog post.

Even though we do not collect any sensitive information such as credit cards, we were prompted to make the change by a recent policy change from Google and its Chrome browser to explicitly label any website that had not changed over to HTTPS as “not secure” and downgrade it in SEO rankings.

So we made the switch. You should not notice any other differences but if you do, please comment below or drop us a line.

Upcoming posts

Our recent satellite posts that culminated in the latest launch of the Iridium NEXT satellites on July 25 have been well received. We are working on a few other series that we plan on bringing out over the next few weeks. These include;

– a series on posts on Wide-Area Networking (WAN) and contrasting MPLS and SD-WAN
– a series on OTT calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype and how telcos can counter them
– more book reviews including Taleb’s “Skin in the Game”
– view from Canada’s North ; we’re travelling to Yellowknife and I’ll report on telecom from there
– more updates on the fight against telecom fraud

If there are any other topics that pertain to wholesale international telecom, or telecom in general that you would like to see me cover, then please comment below, or use the contact form or drop me an email or a tweet.

Enjoy the summer weather, and keep an eye on your network !

What’s NEXT for Iridium satellite system ?


On July 25, 2018, a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket will launch the seventh Iridium NEXT mission. This second-to-last launch will increase the total number of Iridium NEXT satellites in space to 65. The final launch will will deliver the last 10 satellites for a total of 75 satellites in orbit. In total 81 satellites comprise Iridium NEXT with 66 in the operational constellation (six polar orbiting planes, each made up of 11 birds), nine serving as orbital spares and six as on earth ground spares. This constellation will completely cover the entire planet with reliable satellite connectivity and will replace the original Iridium network that was deployed in the late 1990’s by Motorola.

The Iridium network has always been the go-to choice for connectivity anywhere in the world. It’s story is a fascinating one (see my book review at http://www.amitel.com/trenchs/ ) and it has survived and flourished because its users love it. The phone works anywhere on the globe, including the Arctic and Antarctic regions and has thus made it a favourite of first responders, scientists, adventurers, journalists, explorers, the military and spies.

The technology upgrade that Iridium NEXT provides will allow for a new global broadband service beyond the current telephony and low speed data service. More bandwidth with higher throughput and faster speeds will support a host of new broadband services and devices across oceans, airways and the polar regions. Crucially , it will also be backwards compatible with current devices, in fact will provide improved performance and reliability to devices such as the Iridium 9555 phone and the Iridium Extreme.

So , while others such as Elon Musk (Space-x) and Jeff Bezos (Open Web) plan on launching constellations of satellites to provide a global broadband service, the Iridium system has already done it and is building upon an established user base that values the service and the connectivity it provides anywhere on the planet.