Arctic satellite feeds suffer sun transit outages

Twice-a-year communication glitches arrive again

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Long distance telephone, internet and satellite television users throughout most of the Arctic will once again suffer short, daily outages due to the twice-a-year sun transit problem.

Telesat Canada’s sun transit calculator shows that for Iqaluit, short service interruptions of between eight and 15 minutes will occur every day between Feb. 23 and March 4, around 2:30 p.m. each day.

In Nunavik, interference starts Feb. 24 and will occur every day between 3:18 p.m. and 3:26 p.m., Saima Mark, the assistant director of the Kativik Regional Government’s administration department told the KRG council this week.

Sun transit interruptions occur when the sun crosses the equator and aligns behind a satellite, overwhelming satellite signals with thermal energy.

The phenomenon occurs annually for about two weeks during the spring and fall equinoxes.

The sun transit problem affects all communication systems carried by satellites, including internet, long distance telephone, television, debit card payment systems and other services.

Despite the temporary problems due to the solar transit, workers at the KRG who run the Nunavik’s Tamaani internet service said bandwidth for all users has doubled since the beginning of 2010, and that the minimum speed has increased to 256 kilobits from 128 kilobits.

But this is still much less than the two megabytes per second that Quebec wants to see as the minimum standard throughout the province.

“We don’t really have high speed internet,” Maggie Emudluk, the chairperson of the KRG. “We are still lagging behind as compared to the south.”

This is mainly due to the cost of using satellites for internet communications, which means 30 megabytes of transmission that would cost $65 in the South cost $1.2 million in Nunavik, Emudluk said.

At the regional council meeting, the KRG’s internet technology department, which runs Tamaani, outlined its objectives for 2010, which include making sure all technical outages in communities are resolved within four hours after a technician’s arrival in a community.

A web portal will also be established for all of Tamaani’s 2,000 or so clients so that they can check their usage.

This is will be useful, KRG councillors learned, because if clients use more than their allotted downloads, their service automatically slows down.

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