It’s a not uncommon belief that, when it comes to internet service, everything is controlled by a handful of big telecom companies. But that’s a misconception.
“There are a lot of companies like ourselves just in Northern Ontario, and in Ontario generally, who employ locally,” said Derrick Chartrand, marketing manager for Sudbury-based Sunwire.
“We spend locally, a lot of our vendors that we purchase from are local, and there’s a strong emphasis on that.”
Supporting the regions in which it operates, and creating strong ties with those communities, has been a guiding principle for Sunwire since it launched in 2009.
Back then, founder Jason Legault envisioned Sunwire as a software development firm, and its first achievement was the SolSwitch, a telecommunications platform using voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology that enables businesses to call, chat, and stay connected from anywhere.
It took off, and SolSwitch has now processed more than a billion phone calls for tens of thousands of homes and businesses right across Canada.
SolSwitch’s success led the company to add commercial-grade business internet to its portfolio of services, and by 2016, the company had added high-speed home internet and phone service.
From Sudbury, the company quickly branched out to communities across the North, including Elliot Lake, Espanola, Kapuskasing, Kirkland Lake, New Liskeard, Sturgeon Falls, and Timmins.
Two years ago, Sunwire nearly doubled the footprint at its Sudbury headquarters, to 4,800 square feet, and expanded further into southern Ontario. The company now has clients right across the country.
Now counting 50 employees, Sunwire has both hired local talent and recruited from outside the region.
“Because of the nature of the technology, and the services that we sell, we’re able to continue growing in Sudbury physically but still reach, eventually, coast to coast,” Chartrand said.
Along the way, Sunwire has distinguished itself from competitors by focusing on client satisfaction. Its social media platforms are filled with comments from happy customers praising Sunwire for their reliable service, their quick response to service requests, and their friendly and down-to-earth staff.
“At the end of the day, internet should be fast, it should be reliable, and it should be affordable. These aren’t really add-ons; it should be the standard,” Chartrand said.
“The only way to compete is to provide a better service.”
In 2018, as part of its continued expansion, Sunwire purchased another Sudbury-based telecommunications provider, Northern Voice & Data.
Sunwire can now offer clients additional IT and telecommunications solutions, including web, phone lines, phone systems, cloud services, off-site backups, IT services and video surveillance.
The business has recently returned to its roots as a software development firm, launching a new unified communications platform, SolSwitch Connect, this past spring.
Though already in development when the pandemic hit, the onset of COVID-19 led to a rapid deployment of the technology, and it’s now being marketed and sold to clients.
“It’s an app that you install on your phone and your computer, and it allows you to use your mobile phone or your computer like your desk phone,” Chartrand explained.
“So you’re logged into your extension and you can call in and out from there.”
The app also offers instant messaging and videoconferencing capabilities, which means business clients really can operate from anywhere.
As smart technology further permeates so many aspects of our lives, Sunwire sees endless possibilities for expansion.
But their home base will remain in Sudbury, where they aspire to make a lasting impact on the area’s burgeoning technology cluster.
“We’re a mining town, but we’ve grown into so much more,” Chartrand said. “With Sunwire, the vision one day would be that we helped contribute to growing out of just a mining town. As part of the technology industry in the city, we want to be part of moving that step forward for the city and for Northern Ontario.”
Since launching in 1986, the Northern Ontario Business Awards has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario. These awards serve to heighten the visibility and influence of business in the North and bring peer recognition to the business leaders who create prosperity and economic growth.