Ottawa firms central to new $400M public-private 5G partnership

5G

Five multinational companies with an Ottawa presence are partnering with federal and provincial governments to put Ontario and Quebec on the forefront of fifth-generation network tech.

Ciena, Ericsson, Thales, IBM and CGI will spend $200 million over the next five years on research in an Ontario-Quebec corridor focused on developing 5G technology. The federal government and both provincial governments will match those funds with $67.7 million each.

The resulting public-private partnership will be worth $400 million, and will have the, uh, catchy name of ENCQOR (Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Quebec and Ontario for Research and Innovation).

The partnership is expected to “secure” 4,000 jobs in the two provinces. A spokesperson for the federal government clarified that these are existing jobs within the private firms that will be repurposed to focus on the advanced network technology.

Navdeep Bains
Navdeep Bains is the federal minister of science and innovation. (File photo)

The feds’ Minister of Science and Innovation Navdeep Bains made the announcement at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on Monday, where he called 5G “the gateway to the future and we are just on the brink of this technological revolution.”

The governments are pitching 5G, which has the potential of achieving connection speeds more than 100-times faster than current 4G technology, as the pathway to smarter cities, self-driving cars and instantly-restocked refrigerators.

Ottawa’s 5G focus

Business leaders in Ottawa have long jockeyed to positioned the National Capital Region as a hub for the emerging technology, with some measures of success.

This time last year, Mayor Jim Watson and tech magnate Sir Terry Matthews led a delegation to Queen’s Park in Toronto, lobbying the provincial government for funds to assert the city as a leader in autonomous vehicles and 5G technology.

Last May, Ontario allocated $63 million to the Ottawa-based Centre of Excellence in Next-Generation Networks, a consortium of startups and large firms aiming to commercialize 5G technology.

Speaking to Techopia last summer, CENGN’s vice-president of marketing and business development Richard Waterhouse said the organization aims to improve Canada’s competitiveness in next-gen networks, and its Ottawa base is critical to that.

“The innovation that’s here, and the skills and level of knowledge, is second to none in Canada,” Waterhouse said.

Chinese telco Huawei has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the province, including its 250-person Kanata R&D outpost. Last year, the firm also extended its 5G research partnership with Ottawa’s Carleton University.

Last November, Ottawa set up a 5G test site at City Hall in partnership with the federal government. Companies can test and demonstrate any advances they’ve developed and possibly collaborate with the feds’ Communications Research Centre.

- With files from the Canadian Press

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