Keeping Us Connected


For the past eleven years, Optelian has provided superior products, solutions, and services for transporting high-speed data over fibre optics. The team established key relationships with major telecom operators early on, and the company quickly grew to boast a 200 employee workforce and over 200 customers around the globe.

In fact, the Ottawa Business Journal recognized Optelian as one of the Fastest Growing Companies in 2011, 2012, and 2013. This rapid growth has included the opening of regional offices in India and Singapore in 2011, and the acquisition of Vancouver-based Versawave Technologies last year. Currently, Optelian serves most of North America’s largest carriers, and many of the largest international ones as well.

Optelian operates within a highly competitive industry, and staying a step ahead of the competition is essential. One of the company’s greatest advantages is that it carries out all product development and manufacturing right here in Canada. “We have a cultural commitment to doing in-house manufacturing,” remarks Dennis Isotti, Optelian’s Vice President of Operations. “It is part of our DNA.”

This commitment is in stark contrast to virtually every other North American optical transport vendor. Over the last decade and a half, the industry as a whole has shifted its manufacturing processes overseas, primarily in order to save costs. Optelian, on the other hand, has been strongly committed to domestic manufacturing since day one. “When everybody was offshoring and outsourcing we continued to focus on product development competencies, but we also continued to invest in manufacturing capabilities,” Mr. Isotti explains. “We see it as value added and not just a cost of doing business. We work pretty hard each day to strike that right balance of manufacturing capability and capacity to support our business.”

Many North American customers have turned to Optelian specifically to reap the benefits that come with domestic manufacturing. One major advantage of manufacturing in Canada is that the team can respond to customers far more quickly – and reliably – than an anonymous overseas manufacturer. “Our North American customers are serviced in a much more timely way than our competitors’,” Mr. Isotti explains. The team can also guarantee quality. “Having all of our research development and engineering [located near] the manufacturing facility is a great way to keep an eye on the quality of the product that is going out the door,” Brian Pratt, Vice President of Product Marketing, points out. Customers are also choosing Optelian as a safeguard against espionage. Concerns regarding the security of software and hardware manufactured overseas are escalating, and manufacturing domestically cuts out this risk almost completely.

Manufacturing telecom products in Canada carries so many strengths that the team believes many companies will actually bring their manufacturing back to this country in the near future. “We believe pretty strongly that more Canadian original equipment manufacturers will re-patriate elements of their manufacturing chains and bring them closer to home,” Mr. Isotti reports. “So we think there is a positive climate for resurgence of manufacturing in the Canadian telecom industry.”

Overall, manufacturing telecom equipment in Canada just makes sense – and has been a major reason behind Optelian’s continued growth and success. “There has been a decline in certain sectors of Canadian manufacturing such as the automobile sector,” Mr. Pratt admits. “But we are not going through that decline. Optelian is flourishing in the current environment. And a big [reason behind] that is that we have manufacturing here close to home, close to our target customers, and close to people designing the products.”

Optelian’s manufacturing operations are based in Ottawa, where the company is headquartered. The team carries out all of its circuit card, mechanical, and electro-optical assembly at this state of the art facility. The company also runs all of its overseas support, distribution, and logistics from this location. Ottawa is an ideal site for these operations due to its comprehensive telecommunications capabilities; the industry is at its best there, and Optelian can trust local suppliers to deliver top quality printed circuit boards, metal work and plastics. The city also boasts a highly skilled and experienced workforce ready to lend their talents to Optelian’s operations.

Optelian’s business model has been so successful that the company’s greatest concern is simply keeping up with the rapid growth. “Ensuring that the organization evolves to support the needs of our customers” is one major priority, says Mr. Isotti. “First and foremost is the challenge to recruit the people and talent needed at the right time for the right roles.” Fortunately, the company is well positioned to draw top talent. “At Optelian, we foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork which attracts the right kind of people that want to join our growth and be part of our success,” Mr. Isotti explains.

“Optelian really is a family culture,” Mr. Pratt adds. “Everyone is valued and respected.” This appreciation and respect applies to every single employee, Mr. Pratt insists, from the CEO all the way through to the labourers working on the manufacturing floor. Everyone’s opinions are sought and valued. Furthermore, management actively measures employee satisfaction levels – and works to raise them.

“Quality is also very much a part of the culture here,” Mr. Pratt reports. Optelian is TL-9000 certified, which is the telecom equivalent of ISO-9000. “TL and ISO-9000 certification is a catalyst that helps create an environment of documentation control and continuous improvement for the organization,” Mr. Isotti points out. “It is important, however, to couple the disciplines of strong business processes and operational Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to enable managers and leaders to get access to the data and information required to measure and improve the business each day. When you combine process and tools with talented people you get the positive results you are looking for.”

One of these positive results has been the recent development of several exciting new products. The team recently introduced a product that has the ability to transport data at 100 Gigabits per second over fibre optic cables that may be thousands of kilometres long. “That’s a lot of data,” Mr. Pratt points out. Supplying providers with a means to deliver so much data to consumers so quickly is hugely important. “This positions Optelian very well for the continuing build-out of fibre optic infrastructure,” Mr. Pratt explains.

The market is demanding more data at higher speeds for several reasons. For starters, cloud-based computing is rapidly becoming the norm for many network users. “More and more enterprises are putting all of their data and applications into data centres that require high-speed connectivity over fibre optics,” Mr Pratt reports. “Video over the internet is another large driver for increasing the capacity of the fibre optic cables. Consumers continue to demand faster internet services on their smartphones, including watching video, as well as increasingly using their home internet services for watching their TV shows.”

Optelian is also rolling out a product that has been specially designed to consume as little energy as possible, a power saving potential that is particularly crucial for large telecom centres. In addition, all of Optelian’s goods are compliant with the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS), which requires the removal of all toxic materials from telecom products. “We make sure that we are always on the leading edge of all of the green initiatives of the telecom industry,” Mr. Isotti remarks.

Indeed, Optelian has been a leading player in the Canadian telecom industry for over a decade. The company has proven that Canada is an ideal location for telecom manufacturing, and is guiding others in the industry to bring their own operations back home. Customers are also taking notice. They are eager to benefit from all the advantages that come with domestic manufacturing and a supportive company culture. Optelian’s strategies have worked so well, in fact, that it has experienced record growth. After garnering so much success in just eleven years of business, one can only imagine what the next eleven will bring.

June 24, 2018, 2:48 AM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.