CANADA'S LONG TERM LOVE AFFAIR WITH TELECOMMUNICATIONS

 

INTRODUCTION to Canadian Developments in Telecommunications: An Overview of Significant Contributions. Thomas L. McPhail and David C. Coll, Editors. ISBN 0-88953-083-1. Published by the University of Calgary, 1986

 

David C. Coll

Canada is a very peculiar country: geographically, demographically and politically. It's bigger than almost any other country in the world, and yet its population is relatively small. What population there is is spread along a narrow strip from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with almost all Canadians living within 100 kilometres or so of the United States border - most of them concentrated in a handful of major cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Politically, Canada is a very loose federation of provinces, each with substantial responsibility for their own affairs. As a result, communications and transportation have long been recognized as the technologies that are necessary to create, and maintain, a country of this nature; thus, telecommunications plays a very special role in this very special country.

The country was opened up by fur traders and explorers who followed the natural transportation routes, the rivers and lakes, into the interior. Settlement was all originally along major waterways. The roads followed and, when the original provinces confederated to form the country, one of the highest priorities was the establishment of a transcontinental railroad. Of course, where the railroad went, the telegraph followed. The railroad moved persons and goods, the telegraph carried news and ideas. The railroad, and the telegraph, kept remote locations throughout the country in contact with the central government in Ottawa and the centres of commerce in Montreal and Toronto (a fact that still creates problems in the West); even though the most natural lines of transport and communications would have been North and South, with neighbouring regions of the United States, rather than East and West with other regions of Canada. Thus, the railroad and telegraph were vital instruments in the creation and maintenance of national identity and sovereignty. The continuing importance of transportation and communications to Canada is represented by government policies and agencies that provide national services in these areas.

This book is intended to present an overview of Canadian involvement in telecommunications. As we have described above, and as emerges as a dominant theme throughout the book, telecommunications is a vital component of the Canadian scene.

A number of different aspects of Canadian involvement with telecommunications are considered in a variety of chapters. Each has been written by authors who have been intimately involved in the developments described.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part includes reviews by T.L. McPhail and B.M. McPhail of the role that telecommunications plays in the Canadian economy; the major players in Canadian telecommunications; and the regulatory role of various government jurisdictions. As well the development of a number of specific areas is described in the first part. These by no means cover the entire spectrum of Canadian activity but they do include the following.

"Notes On Some Significant Canadian Telecommunications Activities", by D.C. Coll, cites work that has had significant international impact but that is not described in detail in the book. Among these are: HF radio communications; meteor-burst communications, cable television; and Telidon, the Canadian videotex system that led to the NAPLPS standard.

An historical perspective of Canada's satellite communications program is presented by R.M. Dohoo in his chapter entitled "The Development of Canadian Satellite Communications". He traces the evolution of satellite communications from the original space research programs at the Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE) of the Defence Research Board (DRB), through the decisions of the government of Canada that led to the present status of a domestic satellite communications service, to the future possibilities of mobile radio applications.

Telecommunications services arising from Canadian leadership in the field of digital communications is outlined in the paper by D. Sproule entitled "Public Digital Communications in Canada: the First 15 Years". Mr. Sproule's paper traces the introduction by Telecom Canada (then the TransCanada Telephone System) of digital private line service (DATAROUTE), a public packet switched network (DATAPAC), digital circuit switching (DATALINK) and, now, the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).

E.H. Hara describes a number of Canadian contributions to optical fiber communications in his chapter "The Development of Fiber Optics Technology in Canada". Dr. Hara presents several examples of Canadian research and applications. Fiber optical communications, supplied by Canstar, have been installed by CNCP Telecommunications between Hamilton and Montreal and between Edmonton and Vancouver. Telecom Canada will have installed Northem Telecom fiber optics on a transcontinental basis from Toronto to Vancouver by 1987.

New and exciting developments in the area of personal communications are reviewed by A.U. Sheikh in the chapter "Mobile Communications: Liberating the Telephone". Dr. Sheikh describes mobile radio systems, including cellular mobile telephone service, and presents a forecast of future development in the area of truly personal communications that will lead rapidly to totally portable telephones.

The direction that Canadian telecommunications initiative will take in the future is the topic of a chapter "Future Options", by T.L. McPhail and B.M. McPhail. The McPhail's point out that, although telecommunications is a particularly integral part of the fabric of Canadian society, the future may depend on external developments.

A number of papers on specific technical topics is presented in the second part of the book.

The point of view of the telephone companies towards new ISDN services, at least as far as Bell Canada (Quebec and Ontario) is concerned, is described in the chapter "Users: Are They Believers and Subscribers?" by W.B. Hewat, wherein Bell Canada announces the beginning of an ISDN technical and marketing trial program.

The impact of demand growth on our existing digital networks is considered in the paper by Matsubara and Tilli, entitled "Problems and Solutions For Growing Packet Switched Network Traffic and Topology". The authors present an optimum topology for packet switched networks.

V.C.M. Leung and R.W. Donaldson report the results of research on the use of spread-spectrum multiple access (SSMA) for interactive data communication applications. Their chapter is entitled "Interactive Data Communications Using Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum Signalling".

Research relevant to the use of advanced telecommunications within buildings, which is essential for the personal communications forecast by Prof. Sheikh, is described in two chapters. The first is related to the indoor reception of satellite signals and is presented in the chapter "Measurement of the Dielectric Loss in a Double Paned Dielectric Window at 12 GHz- by C.G. Hannah, W.L.H. Shuter and C. P. Chan. The second, "Signalling and Error Control for Data Communications on Intrabuilding Electric Power Distribution Circuits" by M.H.L. Chan, F.K.K. Chiu and R.W. Donaldson is about the use of the power wiring inside a building as a local area network for data communications.

One of the obstacles to realization of the exciting potential of fiber optical transmission has been the difficulty of switching the signals. The switching of optical transmissions is reviewed in the last technical chapter: "Classification of Photonic Matrix Switching" by R.I. MacDonald.