The Bell Gigabit Fibe project (CHRONOS) is one of the most important deployments of fibre-optic network to date in Canada, delivering fibre to the premises (FTTP) access to more than 1 million homes in the largest Canadian city, by aerial and underground methods, in the busiest services and utilities grid of the country.
Announced in 2015, the project is Bell Canada’s largest infrastructure expansion project. At the time, Bell noted that the rollout of its Gigbit Fibe service would create approximately 2,400 direct jobs, as well as other economic and innovation benefits. The $1.5 billion Toronto fibre project is part of Bell Canada’s reinvention of its network footprint with next-generation broadband fibre connections. It is part of a planned $20 billion investment across Canada between 2015 and 2020.
TRJ TELECOM, a specialized deployment, modernization and maintenance service provider for telecommunication infrastructure in the Quebec and Ontario markets, began working on the Toronto project in 2015.
It used a variety of installation techniques and equipment to install the network as efficiently and quickly as possible while ensuring minimal disruption to residents and businesses. A portion of its mandate consisted in the building and the deployment of more than 650 km of new fibre installed underground, which was mainly done by horizontal directional drilling (HDD) method.
“We have deployed over 225 km of underground conduits and fibres year over year within the last three years,” says Thomas Ogier, TRJ senior operations director. “We had up to 22 directional drills operating at once in various areas of the communities on the same day.”
This project was aided with a fleet of specialized heavy machinery and auxiliary equipment and crews, namely civil engineering vehicles, diggers, hydro-vacs and TRJ’s in-house designed aero-excavation units operating in synergy with the directional boring crews.
The drills worked in an extremely busy and dense environment, coping not only with utilities and service networks but also pedestrians and motorists. Coordination with municipal and traffic authorities was of essence, requiring constant logistics re-shuffle.
At the peak of the deployment, TRJ had 22 directional boring crews working simultaneously with two vacuum excavation units dedicated to each HDD crew. “Our biggest challenge was to ensure having enough underground utility locations done ahead to sustain the high speed of the deployment,” Ogier says.
In fact, TRJ had to have more than 5 km worth of locating tickets in inventory on a daily base. The logistics and administration were all dealt by TRJ TELECOM’s project administration resources, which, in addition, had to manage all utilities and municipal permits, as well as gathering the private owner consents for work to be done on their property.
“This meant opening more than 22,500 daylighting holes and pits, yearly, using our soft excavation tools such as hydro excavations but mostly aero-excavation units,” Ogier says.
Combining and synchronizing the daylight holes with the future placement of urban furniture, such as ground level boxes and pedestals, was key. It improved the productivity and reduced unnecessary ground disturbance and post operation refection work, as much as possible.
By its efficient and innovative deployment methods and constant communication with the impacted third parties, TRJ TELECOM has become a recognized and trusted contractor in the City, despite its relative new presence in the province of Ontario.
Bell Canada announced in April 2018 that all of its all-fibre-optic network is now on in Toronto, connecting most homes and business locations throughout the city. Bell’s FTTP service now delivers Internet access speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) with symmetrical upload and downloads. Speeds will increase to at least 5 Gbps in 2019 and ultimately to 40 Gbps and beyond in future.
“The Bell team is proud to light up North America’s largest fibre network right here in Toronto. Bell’s all-fibre network will deliver the best Internet, TV and business connectivity services to Torontonians while enabling Canada’s largest city to innovate and compete at a global level with next-generation connectivity,” said George Cope, president and CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada in a company-issued press release announcing the completion of the project. “We’re grateful to the City, its citizens and all our local partners for their support of this incredible infrastructure transformation.”
According to information from Bell Canada, the Bell Gigabit Fibe project in Toronto includes more than 10,000 km of new fibre installed to date on approximately 90,000 Bell and Toronto Hydro poles and underground via more than 10,000 manhole access points, as well as technology enhancements to 27 Bell central offices throughout the city. It also announced plans to expand direct fibre connections throughout the GTA/905 region surrounding Toronto and extending to the United States border.