Niverville’s Wireless Field of Dreams

The town of Niverville, Manitoba, took a page out of W.P. Kinsella’s book to attract a big business to its small community.

When Mediplan Health Consulting, the province’s largest Internet pharmacy, was scouting locations for a new facility near Winnipeg, the company liked what it saw in Niverville. There was just one problem: the rural town of 2,300 didn’t have the broadband infrastructure that Mediplan needed.

Niverville’s response? If we build it, they will come.

The town turned to Rainy Day Software, which deployed a wireless broadband network that includes a link between Mediplan’s new Niverville plant and its headquarters in Minnedosa, around 150 miles away.

“They wanted to have some kind of connectivity to a national fiber backbone for Internet as well as a private circuit that would run from Niverville all the way back to Minnedosa,” said Brent Toderash, director of operations for Rainy Day.

To accomplish this, Rainy Day used fixed wireless gear from Kanata, Ontario-based DragonWave to backhaul traffic from Niverville back to its network operations center (NOC) in Winnipeg, 20 miles away. They then leased fiber service to get back to Minnedosa, where there’s a “short wireless hop” to connect to Mediplan’s facility there.

Mediplan’s Niverville plant officially opens its doors on November 10, but it’s already up and running on the network, said Toderash. The new facility will create 70 jobs immediately, with plans for as many as 300 in the next few years, making it Niverville’s largest employer.

Niverville didn’t stop there, though. Recognizing the importance of being able to offer broadband services in order to attract more businesses to the area, the town asked Rainy Day to expand the network.

Toderash said the company installed six triangulated access points that provide a 10-mile coverage radius around the town. Rainy Day recently extended the network even further to cover Ritchot and Tache, two neighboring rural municipalities. In those areas, the company used non-line-of-sight (NLOS) equipment from WaveRider and line-of-sight (LOS) gear from Trango Systems to power the network.

The strategy has worked. Since it implemented the broadband network, Niverville has landed a new health care facility, and is also launching a new industrial park that will focus on agriculture.

In addition, Toderash pointed out that existing businesses can take advantage of the service to deploy applications such as video conferencing and voice over IP.
“We’re in discussions right now with two different companies in Niverville about video conferencing and those sorts of applications,” he said. “One of them had actually tried it before [using a low-grade DSL], but it failed horribly, so we’re talking to them again because we can actually accomplish it over this link.”

Unlike Adel, Ga., and Buffalo, Minn., where the cities are actually serving as wireless Internet service providers (WISP), Niverville is leaving the business of running the network to Rainy Day.

“We came up with a model where Rainy Day will operate the network, and the town owns part of the infrastructure,” explained Toderash. “They built a tower and they put up distribution radios, … and then they turned it over to Rainy Day so we have exclusive use of it to provide the service to the community.”

Niverville does gets royalties back from Rainy Day, so they will eventually recoup their investment in the infrastructure and even profit from the network. The ultimate goal, though, is to recruit more employers to the town.

“Their chief interest is of course economic development. They see access to [broadband] services … as being a key to that.”

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