A 5G tower overlooking a major city

Why telecom leader Parallel Wireless chose Ottawa for its leading-edge R&D facility

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Maxime Dumas had a dilemma on his hands. The General Manager of Parallel Wireless Canada could either support adding a new R&D facility for the trailblazing New Hampshire-based 5G and Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) tech company in the province of Quebec—or opt for one in Ontario.

Quebec has established itself as an important hub in technology and engineering, with its large pool of skilled workers and attractive incentives, but Dumas ultimately chose Ottawa, Ontario as the ideal location to setup and grow the business.

“In our area, we cannot settle for less. We can’t settle for a compromise. We need to hire the best of the best, and that has to be in Ottawa,” he said.

Joining the 5G hub

Headshot of Maxime Dumas in a dark blue suit against an orange background
Maxime Dumas is the General Manager of Parallel Wireless Canada.

While known as Canada’s federal capital, Ottawa has a long history of attracting and championing tech giants and startups.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, companies like Nortel, Blackberry (previously RIM) and Mitel helped usher in revolutionary changes to the telecommunications industry—and their hard work paved the way for some of Canada’s most exciting tech companies today. One of the country’s largest publicly traded companies, Shopify, was born in Ottawa. And you’ll find offices for IBM, Cisco, OpenText and MindBridge there, as well as telecom giants Ericsson and Nokia—which is particularly enticing for Parallel Wireless.

“We’re joining Canada’s 5G party,” Dumas says.

Why Ottawa? There are more than 3,000 information and communication tech firms in Ottawa, representing more than 42,000 employees and 14% of total ICT employment in Ontario. According to a recent report from CBRE Group Inc., Ottawa has the highest concentration of tech talent in its labour force in North America, even edging out Silicon Valley.

Decades of Ottawa’s tech success have created a deep well of senior talent. It’s also because of Ottawa’s geographic proximity to the greater Toronto and Montreal areas. “If you draw a 400-kilometre circle around Ottawa, you’re reaching 20 million people,” said Jens-Michael Schaal, Invest Ottawa’s Vice-President of Global Expansion, “If you do the same thing in Toronto, you’re reaching 15 million. In Montreal, you reach 10 million. Ottawa has a good reach to these different marketplaces.”

Night shot of Ottawa along the Rideau Canal, showcasing the traditional architecture of the capital building next to a modern, curved mirrored building with interlocking triangular windows
Ottawa’s leadership in 5G, top tech talent and market access are just a few of the reasons Parallel Wireless selected it to locate their R&D operations

For Parallel Wireless, Ottawa is also attractive due to its wealth of graduates in software engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning—all critical technologies for the quickly-evolving telecom industry.

“You do have Carleton [University] and the University of Ottawa. Going further west as well, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology [and] University of Waterloo [that] have great labs doing 5G [and] MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output radio tech),” Dumas said. “They’re really world-class and publishing many, many international papers on the topic. So that makes for great offspring of younger talent.”

Ontario made it easy

Having recently doubled in size and opened offices in the U.S., U.K., Israel, Australia, India and Sweden, Parallel Wireless made the decision to open its newest R&D facility in Ottawa in December 2021—just two months after initially approaching the Investment Services team at the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT), who put him in touch with Invest Ottawa.

The Investment Services team connected Dumas with Invest Ottawa in October 2021 to express their interest in setting up a new R&D facility in the city. With every new connection, Investment Services and Invest Ottawa answered all of their questions and then some, which Dumas found tremendously impressive: “They provided benchmarks that were substantiating [their] claims and were making it easier for us,” he said, referring to the benchmark analysis comparing Ontario against Quebec on metrics like industry cluster, general business environment, infrastructure and accessibility, living environment and costs related to living and the labour force. “They have hard facts [and] stats. It’s not just from word of mouth or anything, so that really helped in backing up our assumptions with actual hard numbers.”

The Investment Services team and Invest Ottawa educated Parallel Wireless about Ontario and Canada’s “quite compelling programs for attracting foreign investments” and helped Dumas build connections. One example is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit, and MEDJCT offered Parallel Wireless assistance with navigating the program by connecting Dumas with a third-party expert.

“I’ve been introduced to many general managers [of other tech companies] in the Ottawa and Kanata area, and they were very generous with their time. [They said:] ‘Welcome to the region. Let me know what I can do for you. Let’s see if we can find ways to build greater 5G technology together,’” Dumas explained.

“It’s like coming and joining the 5G party, but you have your best friend at the door who is showing you around introducing to everyone,” Dumas added. “So, it definitely saves a lot of time and makes sure that you’re talking to the right people firsthand.”

But before the office doors finally open (Parallel Wireless is still searching for an exciting new facility), Dumas says the company is already feeling welcome in Ottawa’s thriving tech ecosystem.

“There’s a real ecosystem going on, and I can already feel that,” he said. “It’s not just about going there and hiring people—it’s about being part of that ecosystem. Being stronger as a group within the same common interests.”

Learn more about why Ontario is right for your IT expansion.