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Bringing Optical Where Trucks Won’t Go

headshot of Jeff Babbitt

March 28, 2023
By Jeff Babbitt
Sr. Manager Partner Marketing

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey for the remote community connected by an Infinera fiber optic highway

The residents and businesses of the East James Bay region of northern Quebec in Canada are waking up to a brighter day, more opportunity, and increased access and inclusion. Eeyou Communications Network (ECN) has recently deployed an Infinera broadband network providing broadband carrier services for the Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee and municipalities of the James Bay Region.

At first, this might not sound all that difficult a deployment, but the remoteness and rugged climate make building a network in this area challenging. The region encompasses approximately 250,000 square kilometers (~100,000 square miles), similar in size to the state of Colorado, so the distances are large, with long stretches of undeveloped wilderness. Also, due to the northern climate, many of the roads are not passable for large parts of the year due to extreme cold, ice, and snow, with temperatures across the region ranging from close to 40°C (104°F) in summer to below -40°C/F in winter. Many roads are not open year round, effectively isolating residents for the entire winter season. Traveling between towns is challenging even when the roads are passable, requiring expert planning and preparation. These demanding conditions are a key consideration that is always present in ECN’s planning.

Map of ECN Network in Northern Quebec


The existing network provided limited capacity and had exhausted its growth potential, so a new network was required. Reliability and scalability requirements are paramount for ECN. ECN, working with FONEX, a regional partner of Infinera, selected the XTM Series, which is part of Infinera’s broadband optical transport portfolio. Infinera’s XTM deftly handles these challenges and provides robust connectivity to support ever-increasing needs for networking bandwidth while transforming the communities in the region through advanced communication services.

Another contributing factor to the selection of Infinera is the wide range of longer-term growth options supported by the XTM platform, including modules with higher line rates, additional channels, support for a variety of access network options, and a comprehensive portfolio of hardened XTM elements. Although initial deployments feature 10 Gb/s links, ECN can easily grow networking capacity by 20 times on a single channel, in addition to being able to add more channels in the future. Layer 2 capabilities add new functionality and business value for ECN. The hardened XTM portfolio enables new deployments into non-environmentally controlled sites. Due to the disaggregated nature of the XTM platform, these new functions can be easily implemented via a cost-effective, pay-as-you-grow paradigm.


This robust and reliable XTM broadband network is transforming the region into a more vibrant, connected community. The new network enables high-bandwidth services that can provide better education and health care, improve the productivity and sustainability of local business activities, promote business growth, and enable more career opportunities, including remote work-from-home jobs.  A broadband network also facilitates faster and better information transfer of civic activities and information. Especially relevant to this community due to its increased isolation because of remoteness and weather, this network fosters better social connections within the community and outside the region. Hence, waking up to a brighter day.

“On behalf of ECN, we thank Infinera R&D teams for remarkable advancements with their ICE optical engines. Infinera XTM delivers “always-on” network communications for ECN to connect to the world’s content and for the world to connect with Eeyou Istchee Communities and Cree Nation culture. We also appreciate the tremendous support of the Infinera and FONEX solution partnership to help ECN realize its mission for positive outcomes and sustainable impacts through the transformation of our communications services.”

Alfred Loon – Chair and Founding Member of Eeyou Communications Network

ECN’s fiber optic network highway featuring Infinera XTM platforms has successfully expanded broadband networking infrastructure to eight remote communities with reliable, robust, dedicated connectivity providing the performance, scalability, and flexibility needed for the East James Bay Region. Harsh environmental conditions can’t stop Eeyou Istchee Communities from connecting, communicating, and flourishing with long-term benefits thanks to Infinera’s leading technology.

If you are interested in understanding more about the XTM Series’ capabilities in harsh environments, then click here to learn more.