Connecting Tomorrow Today

Since the establishment of the ROHL Group of Companies in 1967, ROHL has grown from a small family company into a leading multi-national telecommunication firm. Business Elite Canada spoke with Jason Rohl, President of ROHL Global Networks, about how the company has become a leader in North America for turnkey solutions in telecommunications.

BEC: Please estimate how many KM’s of fiber cables you’ve installed this year? In the past five years?
JR: In the past year we have installed approximately 1,500km of fiber optic cable. Within the last five years, about 5,000km.

BEC: The company has an interesting history. Please give me an outline and describe what you think was the tipping point to becoming the multi-national company you are today.
JR: My father was a hard-working entrepreneur in rural Manitoba, and that work ethic and drive was instilled in our entire family. I have two brothers and a sister, and we all worked with our dad at our family construction business as well as on our farm. In the late 1980’s we brothers worked together to push into the telecommunications industry. Staying true to our family values, we worked hard and reinvested in ourselves to grow our company assets while becoming experts in the telecommunication construction industry. In the mid 1990’s we identified another gap within the natural gas market and expanded there. The tipping point was the early 2000’s. I had the opportunity to become the owner of two companies, one that owned and operated a fiber optic line spanning two provinces, and one that completed outside plant design. Then, in 2008, I secured a large telecom program in the USA, which lead to the creation of an American firm.

BEC: Please talk about your focus on providing access to communication for remote communities in North America? Why is this important to you?
JR: I’m from St. Martin, Manitoba. Though the telecommunications industry has really closed the gap for access to information and education over the past 20 years, St. Martin is still definitively rural even by today’s standards. Providing access to communications for communities such as my hometown is a main factor in the quality of life every North American citizen has. The primary focus of many organizations has been wireless and the deployment of fiber optics in urban environments, while we dedicated ourselves to serving the underserved and focusing on the remote regions. We are also very dedicated to the environment. The rural and remote portions of North America are filled with natural beauty, and we do our part to help preserve it. We invest a significant amount of capital to minimize the impact to the environment, such as equipment like our specialized plow train, which allows us to trench in utilities while simultaneously restoring the soil as if we had never been there.

BEC: Please tell me about ROHL Global Networks’ commitment to working alongside First Nations. Please give me a recent example of a positive working relationship.
JR: Approximately five years ago I brought Hans Bongers on as our CEO. One of the things that really connected us was growing up in rural Canadian communities. With his firsthand experience as a visible minority, and our combined passion for working with the First Nations and connecting their communities to urban centers, our unique approach to working with First Nations groups has grown immensely. ROHL has been working with First Nation groups for over 20 years, and is proud of the fact that many of our construction methodologies have been developed through the knowledge gained from working alongside these Nations and respecting their traditional and cultural values for the lands we crossed. Each and every year we work with First Nations groups across Western Canada, and we firmly believe that past, present and future partnerships with these communities nation-wide will be a key success factor in connecting all North Americans.

BEC: How are the needs of your clients, in telecommunications or utilities, evolving? How are your services evolving alongside your clients?
JR: We see a huge demand for growth in fiber-optic networks. Historically we have seen only major telcos installing fiber lines. The landscape today is much different. The demand is driven by the desire from community, municipalities, utility companies and First Nations to establish their own telecommunications networks.

Since the first IT bubble, all the major service providers have been making significant investments in their fiber-optic networks from coast to coast; this is to support the significant increase in traffic as well as the anticipation of 5G networking.

There is a large growth in the remote and rural communities for First Nations to obtain access to high-speed internet via fiber-optics; this is a trend we expect to continue for the next five years. The consistency of access to Broadband connectivity is an essential piece of the puzzle when dealing with quality of life for all Canadians. In closing this gap, we are expanding our own fiber line. Both portions of our network serve as the primary means of connectivity to the Northern Canadian regions, and our ability to provide redundant route selection and 99.9 per cent uptime is something we are very proud of. Especially in the northernmost regions of our country, there is usually only one fiber line, which means when the fiber gets cut, nothing works. In a city the internet traffic would typically have a different path to follow to keep things working, so redundancy is obviously a hot topic in the north and is one of the driving factors for our network expansion.

BEC: Please talk about your employees and how you create a culture of safety within the company.
JR: Safety is an integral part of our daily operations, in every department of our company. Our employees are the most important part of what makes us ROHL, and we are invested in ensuring their safety and training exceeds the expectations set forth by various government standards. We are continuously evolving our program to enhance our safety performance, strengthen communication and empower staff.