Chris Mankewich: Expanding inclusion and opportunity

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In a short period, Chris Mankewich, Managing Director of Manitoba Hydro Telecom (MHT), has seen a lot of growth in what he calls an encouraged company. Initially formed by Manitoba Hydro, MHT moved under MHI in 2009. In 2017, Chris joined the team and quickly transitioned into the role of managing director. Since taking the reins, he has supported his team in expanding a secure foothold in Manitoba's telecommunications landscape. 

Telecommunications covers a wide range of services. In such a vast industry, where does MHT fit?

Our focus is on reliable data solutions. MHT has been building, extending, and augmenting a province-wide data network for the last 15 years – we've been enabling connections in some of the most remote corners of our province.

Working with wired and wireless Internet service providers, we help extend connectivity. We're able to provide services to communities who then thrive by operating their own Internet service – distributing and even extending the service to adjacent communities.

MHT’s strength is in high-quality network design and deployment. In many cases, MHT provides an entirely diverse network infrastructure from other traditional data network providers in Manitoba allowing customers to have greater data protection and resiliency in running their digital businesses.

What are some challenges working in the Manitoba market?

Our connection to Manitoba Hydro gives us an advantage. No one in the province better understands the geography, topography, and weather conditions — that understanding is the foundation of building a quality, reliable fibre optic network. We leverage our infrastructure with scalable capacity and deliver comprehensive data network solutions all over the province. 

Many network outages are actually caused by human error. Since we don't operate network systems like television or cellular, we're not making as many changes to our networks, so our failure rates and downtime are very low. Customers can confidently connect to our infrastructure to run critical business operations. MHT provides the reliability to support their business goals.

You mention MHT's connection to Manitoba Hydro. How are telecommunications integrated within a utility?

Traditional providers – both in telecommunications and the utility space – are now operating very interconnected network systems. Both gain different and unique benefits from having greater connectivity to the end consumer.

We're seeing utility organizations move toward a greater reliance on data and analytics provided by highly connected telecommunications networks. Smart grids with artificial intelligence are capable of monitoring large segments of the electric grid and providing predictive analysis for real-time optimization of the infrastructure. Within the business units of MHI, we're particularly well suited to bridge this gap between traditional and future operations.  

What does this utility telecom space look like around the world?

In Canada, the federal government has declared broadband Internet service essential. Internet service is becoming a basic right, which is a relatively new concept. People think about utilities as providing necessities of life, and the way most of the modern world is evolving, Internet access and connectivity are continuing to grow in importance. Society works better when everybody's included, and ultimately, everybody should be able to access essential services.

Internationally, what opportunities exist for MHT?

Today, developing countries have the opportunity to deploy electricity in a way that leapfrogs over 100 years of development. They can do the same with telecommunications. Rather than going through the copper years and putting in all that infrastructure, they might go straight to fibre, microwave, and cellular. A person who is just getting electricity can now take a distance-learning course through the Internet. For MHT and MHI's utility services, these opportunities are becoming an exciting area for growth.