Nunavik waits for funding news for satellite-capacity boost
“Keeping up with the user demand and maintaining a relatively low-priced residential data plan is very challenging”
Nunavik’s internet customers say they’re struggling with connectivity issues as they await a major bandwidth upgrade planned for the end of next year.
The Kativik Regional Government’s internet provider, Tamaani, is planning a major bandwidth boost across Nunavik starting next year, via a new underwater fibre optic cable from Chisasibi to Puvirnituq, along with microwave towers connecting Schefferville to Kuujjuaq, and increased satellite capacity to the region’s remaining communities.
In the meantime, the satellite-fed service is having trouble keeping up with demand in Nunavik, the KRG’s regional council heard in meetings this week.
“The internet is always cutting off in Kangiqsualujjuaq. What is the reason?” asked KRG vice-chair Hilda Snowball during council meetings on Sept. 15.
“There are people asking, if their service is being cut off all the time, could they at least not be charged? Please help us with this.”
The KRG and Tamaani are doing their part; the KRG has applied for the CRTC’s broadband fund, in the hope of securing $27 million to update satellite capacity in the region over five years.
The regional government also made a separate application to the fund for money to extend its fibre optic network from Puvirnituq to the Hudson Strait community of Kangiqsujuaq, as well as upgrading the proposed microwave link between Schefferville and Kuujjuaq to a terrestrial fibre optic cable.
But the KRG has yet to receive any word back from the CRTC. The current agreement with the organization’s satellite bandwidth provider expires in September 2021.
“The KRG expects that our application was pushed to round two,” said Daryl Combden, who heads the KRG’s administration department.
Confirmation of that funding should come this fall, he said.
The KRG and Tamaani are also anticipating an increase in bandwidth demand as another internet provider in the region, Xplornet, announced last month that it would end its use of Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite by the end of the year.
It’s not yet clear what the impact will be for its Nunavik customers, even if many can be migrated to another satellite. But Tamaani is preparing to see continued demand, Combden said.
“It should be noted that Tamaani has continually increased its satellite capacity for Nunavik communities by 25 per cent annually, year over year, since 2002,” Combden said.
“But with the onset of Netflix, YouTube, Facebook video, tele-health and tele-education [services], keeping up with the user demand and maintaining a relatively low-priced residential data plan is very challenging.”
Cellular service rollout on hold while firm studies region’s comms network
Nunavik’s cellular service, which was initially set to be offered in each of its 14 communities last year, is now permanently on hold while a third-party firm does an audit of the network.
The KRG is not directly involved in cellular operations, but Tamaani offers bandwidth to Ice Wireless through its telecommunications infrastructure.
In early 2019, Ice Wireless launched 3G service in Kuujjuaq and Quaqtaq, with plans to deliver the service to the rest of the region by the end of 2019.
But the company ran into a number of problems launching a 3G LTE network over satellite, opting to shift to new technology on a trial basis.
“An external independent audit is nearly finalized to determine the net result of the changes made by Ice Wireless,” Combden told regional councillors this week. “Following those results, we’ll discuss with the KRG a path forward.”
Combden said the region welcomes interest from other cellular and mobile providers.