SSi teams up with Qikiqtaaluk Corp to seek better Nunavut internet

“It’s a real, very real blueprint for Inuit control and Inuit management”

Are you tired of getting poor internet service in Nunavut? SSi Canada and Qikiqtaaluk Corp. have teamed up in the hope of providing some relief. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

There might be some relief on the way for all those internet and mobile phone users in Nunavut who are fed up with incessant outages and network slowdowns.

That could happen if a consortium formed by SSi Canada and the Inuit-owned Qikiqtaaluk Corp. is able to move forward on a 10-year plan for creating better internet access in the Canadian Arctic.

“It’s about putting in facilities not only for today, but for the future, in terms of improving connectivity,” said Dean Proctor, the chief development officer for SSi Canada.

SSi Canada, formerly known as SSi Micro, is the operator of Nunavut’s Qiniq and SSi Mobile networks. QC is the business arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

QC has recently incorporated a new company called Panarctic Communications Inc., which is now registered with Industry Canada.

In turn, that company is partnering with SSi in an entity they’re calling the “Panarctic Consortium.”

Sheldon Nimchuk, QC’s director of project development and partnerships, told Nunatsiaq News that the idea emerged from an Inuit Circumpolar Council business summit held in Anchorage, Alaska, several years ago.

At that meeting, Inuit delegates from around the circumpolar world formed a consensus that a circumpolar Inuit-owned telecom should be created.

“So the idea of Panarctic came to be and QC took the lead on basically putting in the submissions to become a telecom,” Nimchuk said.

For now, the SSi-QC consortium will pursue improvements to Nunavut’s existing satellite-based internet services.

In the longer term, Nimchuk said they’re prepared to look at both undersea fibre optic cables and low-earth-orbit satellites, but fibre optic development is “a bit out there in time.”

“In terms of the fibre, we’ve had discussions about the opportunities to utilize the interest in global underwater cabling to address the demand and global need for data. So that’s sort of a longer-term opportunity that we believe is possible,” Nimchuk said.

And that new telecom would be majority Inuit-owned, he said.

To that end, Dean Proctor said SSi will move into “a minority position” within the entity.

“A very important component of this is Inuit training and local jobs. Over a 10-year plan, we’ve put out plans for internships, for local jobs, for local training, local management for local operations,” Proctor said.

“It’s a real, very real blueprint for Inuit control and Inuit management,” he said.

To help pay for that 10-year plan, the QC-SSi consortium is seeking money from the CRTC’s Broadband Fund. That’s the $750-million, five-year fund from which $62.4 million has recently been awarded to four Northwestel projects in Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Proctor said the consortium has two goals.

One is to provide “immediate relief” for Nunavut telecom customers, in the form of additional satellite capacity.

The second is to build gateway facilities in each community to prepare the way for the eventual arrival of fibre optic cables and low-orbit satellites.

“There’s a need for gateway facilities that will not only allow for the existing satellites that come in to the community, but new satellites, low-earth-orbit satellites, and also a landing place where fibre can come in, where and when fibre does arrive,” Proctor said.

That’s the essence of SSi’s longstanding Qimirluk proposal, the first version of which they produced in 2015. Under it, a community-based hub, built inside a single structure, would support a long list of telecom services and be able to connect to satellite, fibre or microwave.

That hub would act as a common facility and all competitors, large and small, would gain equal access to it.

“You allow local competitors to tap into the local gateway facility so they can access the backbone at the best possible pricing,” Proctor said.

The common facility, equal-access approach stands in sharp contrast to what Northwestel, owned by telecom giant Bell Canada, is accused of offering in Nunavut.

Northwestel received $49.9 million from the federal government in 2017 to help pay for the satellite-based service expansion they call “Tamarmik Nunaliit.”

That system, running on bandwidth supplied by Telesat’s new T-19 satellite, is now up and running.

But since its launch, many Nunavut customers have become bitterly disappointed in Northwestel and its sister company, Bell Mobility. Since July, numerous customers have taken to social media to complain the service isn’t working.

And Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson, in an op-ed recently published in Nunatsiaq News, has accused Bell and Northwestel of using federal government funds to create a monopoly.

“This massive contribution of public funds has enabled Bell/Northwestel to essentially corner the market,” Patterson said.

For now, SSi and QC are still waiting for a response to the applications they’ve submitted to the CRTC’s Broadband Fund.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Darren on

    Give the money to Elon Musk who is far closer to alleviating the North’s poor internet conditions than anyone else. These large organizations will do nothing but piss it away on high overhead to have more “meetings” and deliver nothing like always.

    Every Nunavummiut, especially in Iqaluit/Igloolik/Cam.Bay/Arviat/Resolute Bay should go to that website and SIGN UP. Show interest and we could be part of the pilot project for low earth orbiting satellites that are ALREADY in the sky.

    • Posted by Fantasy on

      First of all, no he’s not that close. And neither are his competitors. It might happen someday but he’s not as close as Elon fanboys say he is.
      Secondly, Elon is not our saviour. He’s incredibly seedy and is working closely with the GOP.
      Thirdly, the internet would be controlled by an American company, where internet providers are throttling certain sites that don’t play by their rules (Netflix, etc) and would also be subject to the Patriot Act. With the current administration they have down there, they can extract loads of personal data from anyone tapping into these constellations.
      I’ll take GN/Inuit owned fiber over Elon. It’ll cost more but they won’t be at the mercy of some maniacal billionaire.

      • Posted by Potato Company on

        Why are all these non-Inuit talking about Inuit business instead of Inuit?

        • Posted by Our Society Too on

          Ummm, have you looked around recently? Whether you like it or not, non-Inuit are in the north to stay and their numbers are growing rapidly.

          Welcome to the world where all Nunavummiut have a voice. Non-Inuit Nunavummiut have voices and input in our society too.

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Suggesting that QC/SSI has the capital or expertise to do anyhting other piggyback on existing fibreoptic or LEO infrastructure is laughable. The reality is that SSI/QC will be a very long second in line in terms of accessing any telecomm infrastructure that would be developed and implemented by a third party in the arctic. To add insult to injury that access would be many years down the road and well beyond the timelines noted in the story. What this merger comes down to is just another third party ISP that will end up complaining about how lousy and crowded NWTel’s backbone infrastructure is.

  3. Posted by SSI Customer on

    SSI urgently needs to move the signal transmitter in Clyde River to a higher grounds and not on the beach. We pay the same rates but keep losing the signal due to its location.

  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    So is this where the $15 an extra gig has been going all these years? So when you have a 10 gig plan for $80 a month which is inexcusable then you go over in a couple days then to get off dial up speed you pay through the itek to get another gig?

    No thanks. Thank goodness for competition.

  5. Posted by Qikiqtaalungiutaq on

    SSI Micro’s Qiniq internet service in Nunavut getting $35M upgrade
    Download speeds to be doubled, says company
    CBC News · Posted: Jul 08, 2015. Last Updated: July 8, 2015
    SSI Micro will receive $35 million from the federal government to double the download speed and make other upgrades to its Qiniq satellite internet service in Nunavut.

  6. Posted by Old trapper on

    Double the speed they are 2mbps to 2.5mbps and still only 4mbps 5 mbps that still SLOW ?

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