MTS Allstream is an interesting company, and is a bit like Rogers in the sense that they're an unusual hybrid of businesses you don't normally see under one roof in the service provider world. If you go back far enough, Allstream's roots pre-date Bell Canada, believe it or not, starting out as the Montreal and Toronto Magnetic Telegraph Company in 1846. These days, you don't see too many companies with both those cities in their name, and if you're curious, you might wonder why Montreal is mentioned ahead of Toronto. It's not for alphabetical order!
Historically, Montreal has long been Canada's leading city, and Toronto was really a secondary market. Up until the 1960s, all the major head offices were there, and much of Canada's trade went through their ports. All that changed when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened up, and a decade later, when the Parti Quebecois came into power with their separatist agenda, causing most of the Anglo power base to flee inland to Toronto. Ever since, Toronto has been on the rise, and has bypassed Montreal to be the economic engine of Canada. Montreal is still way more fun, but the power shift has been pretty decisive.
For the Americans out there, the parallels are almost identical to the histories of Boston and New York. Boston was always the leading business and cultural center until New York's ascendancy, which really got going with the Erie Canal. That's another story, but from that time on, New York has never looked back, and Boston lost its primacy to New York - which goes a long way to explain the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. History lesson over (but don't you like how I managed a segue into my Red Sox?) - I digress...
Allstream - that's a new name, but there have been others, most recently AT&T Canada, Unitel and CNCP. A lot of history there, and the hybrid really came into being with their merger with MTS (Manitoba Telecom) in 2004. So, they're a bit like AT&T in that they have both a business services operation, and a regional ILEC, serving the residents of Manitoba.
Fast forward to yesterday, and we have their IP trunking service. Allstream is basically a strong #2 against Telus in the west and Bell in the east for business services. The combination of IP trunking over a nation-wide MPLS network is unique in Canada, and at least for now, will give them a competitive edge. Given that most enterprises are still TDM-based, the trunking supports both SIP and H.323, so they can adapt to any telephony environment.
IP trunking is really an enabler of converged voice/data services, and is a great solution for multi-site businesses, as this allows them to migrate to a single network, and reduce or eliminate costly PRIs. So, in the short term, MTS Allstream may cut into some of their TDM revenues as existing customers give up T1s and switch over to IP trunking. However, the bigger focus is how this will give them a stronger value proposition to go after Telus and Bell business customers, which is a much bigger slice of the pie.
Overall, this should help accelerate the adoption of IP telephony, which can only be good, and of course rachet things up a notch on the competition scale. IP trunking should strengthen the business case for IT managers and CTOs to adopt network convergence, and make it easier for employees to start experiencing the benefits of IP at the desktop and on their phones.
It's also worth noting that MTS Allstream chose to launch this service at the Canadian Telecom Summit, being held here in Toronto this week. The event is a real who's-who of the Canadian market, and fellow blogger Mark Goldberg is one of the producers. He's been doing his best to blog about the sessions during the conference, and if you want to get a flavor for what is happening there, his posts are a great place to start.