Telesat satellite screw-up knocks out internet, LD phone service across northern Canada

GN reverts to satellite phones to cope with communications blackout


Telesat says services offered through the Anik F2 satellite should be restored by noon Oct. 3. (FILE PHOTO)

Telesat says services offered through the Anik F2 satellite should be restored by noon Oct. 3. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated 12:05 p.m., Oct. 23)

The operator of the troubled Anik F2 satellite, Telesat, says a problem that knocked out internet, phone, cellular, television and ATM banking services across much of northern Canada Oct. 2 should be fixed by noon Oct. 3.

“Telesat is in control of the satellite and all indications are that it is healthy. Although there can be no assurance, we expect it will be returned to service by noon EDT tomorrow (i.e., Monday, October 3, 2016,)” the company said in a statement.

The problem affects all services routed through the Anik F2, said John Flaherty, Telesat’s vice president of business development and marketing.

But some services in some communities are continuing to function through the Anik F3 satellite, Flaherty said. That includes Northwestel internet in Iqaluit and SSI Micro’s Qiniq internet service.

That’s because these and some other Telesat customers re-organized their systems to include the Anik F3, Flaherty said, which gives them more redundancy.

As for the cause of the problem, Flaherty said the company is working on some “hypotheses” but at this point is working on restoring service.

The glitch appears to have affected all communities served by telecom companies that use Telesat as their backbone provider, including all communities in Nunavut.

In a public service announcement, the Government of Nunavut said officers working at Nunavut health centres, airports and government liaison offices should ensure their satellite phones are fully charged, turned on and working properly.

“Please note that you will get the best results when you are using your satellite phone outside. If there is a need to report an emergency, please contact Nunavut Emergency Management at 1-867-222-0208 or 1-800-693-1666,” the PSA said.

The GN also said they expect most services to be restored between 12 noon and 3 p.m. eastern time.

The Anik F2 satellite was at the centre of a major incident on Oct. 6, 2011, when Telesat ground crews lost control of the space craft when they were attempting to upload new software.

The satellite ended up pointing in the wrong direction, knocking out long distance voice phone, internet, television ATM banking and other services for about 16 hours.

This most recent problem appears to be less serious and internet service appeared to be restored in Iqaluit as of the morning of Oct. 3, although long distance phone was not working. Local land line service was not affected.

Also, the Ice Wireless cellular service, which uses a different satellite company, was also working in Iqaluit.

However, Northwestel, a Telesat customer that serves many satellite-based communities, reported a disruption to all services in “satellite served communities in the NWT, Nunavut, B.C. and Yukon.”

“Technicians are currently working to restore this service,” Northwestel said Oct. 3.

The Anik F2 was launched in 2004 with a expected life of about 15 years. But it likely carries enough fuel to continued functioning well beyond 2019, Flaherty said.

A new generation of Telesat satellites will likely be launched in the 2020s, he said.

Telesat, once a Crown corporation, is now a privately held company. About 66 per cent of its shares are held by Loral Space and Communications Inc., a firm based in the United States, and about 33 per cent is held by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board of Canada.

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