Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 04, 2012 - 11:02 am

Arctic Fibre applies to Industry Canada for licences

Firm says fibre optic plan has “strong support” from Nunavut government

This map shows Arctic Fibre’s proposed route through the waters of the Canadian Arctic, including proposed spur lines. (IMAGE SUBMITTED BY ARCTIC FIBRE)
This map shows Arctic Fibre’s proposed route through the waters of the Canadian Arctic, including proposed spur lines. (IMAGE SUBMITTED BY ARCTIC FIBRE)

Arctic Fibre Inc., the firm that proposes connecting northern Canada to an international marine fibre optic cable system running between London, New York and Tokyo, has applied to Industry Canada for cable landing licences needed for the project, the company said Oct. 3.

The cable would carry four “fibre pairs,” the company said.

Two of those would connect Japan with the United Kingdom. A third would carry signals between Japan and the northeastern United States through an existing land station at Milton, Nfld., near Clarenville.

And a fourth fibre pair would connect Nunavut, Nunavik, northern Labrador and Alaska, the company said, reducing the need for high-cost, limited-bandwidth satellite communications.

The company said its fourth fibre pair would automatically provide “virtually unlimited” bandwidth to 52 per cent of Nunavut’s population, with no need for government subsidies.

That refers to the communities located along the fibre cable’s backbone: Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Cape Dorset, and Iqaluit.

To connect most other communities in Nunavut, Arctic Fibre has already held talks with relevant territorial and provincial governments on the construction of spur lines and branching units.

And Arctic Fibre will soon file a proposal with Industry Canada seeking spending of about $21 million a year, up to about $161 million over an eight-year period, to help pay for those spur lines.

That would include service to the Kivalliq region as far south as Arviat; a spur line along Davis Strait as far as to Pond Inlet and possibly Resolute; spurs to Kuujjuaq, Kangirsuk, Quaqtaq and Salluit in Nunavik; and a connection to Nain, Labrador.

“Newfoundland missed the boat in 2009 when TeleGreenland built [a fibre optic cable] from Newfoundland to Nuuk,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think the boat will be passing by Nain this time without stopping.”

Arctic Fibre also said it’s in talks with “a major American carrier” to construct spur lines to Nome, Kotzebue, Wainwright, Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, all of which suffer the same connectivity problems as communities in Nunavut.

“All levels of government recognize the superior cost performance characteristics of fibre relative to satellite and how extension of fibre will reduce the overall cost of providing government services notably in the areas of telemedicine, distance education and administration of justice,” Arctic Fibre’s president, Doug Cunningham, said in the news release.

Cunningham also said the Government of Nunavut is a strong supporter of the project.

“Our discussions with the Nunavut government last week clearly indicate strong support for our project and their desire to transition the bulk of their telecommunications requirements from satellite to fibre once their existing satellite contracts expire in 2016,” Cunningham said.

And the company said they plan capital expenditures in Nunavut worth $30 million to $31 million over the next two years.

The Arctic Fibre project would be financed primarily by bandwidth-hungry telecommunications customers in Asia.

To that end, Cunningham said the company will start signing contracts with carriers between now and the end of the year.

“Notwithstanding significant price deflation, particularly across the Pacific, our project remains viable due to carrier demand for a low latency, physically diverse, technically secure, politically
neutral network,” he said.

The Arctic Fibre proposal has sparked fierce opposition from Telesat, northern Canada’s satellite telecommunications provider, and other vested interests with connections to the satellite system.

But the company said fibre optic, which carries 99 per cent of global telecommunications traffic, is many times cheaper and faster than satellite

“Arctic Fibre’s initial rates in Nunavut represent an 80% price reduction to satellite costs and will improve further as economies of scale are realized,” Cunningham said.

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