Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) announced yesterday that CAD50 million (USD41 million) of government funding has been allocated to a project to deploy a backbone satellite network supporting higher-speed internet for all 25 communities across Nunavut, the far northern region governed by indigenous peoples. The funding – part of the CAD500 million ‘Connect to Innovate’ federal programme for delivering high speed internet access to underserved communities – has been allocated to Northwestel, the far northern subsidiary of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), which is also investing CAD73 million of its own funds to build the backbone satellite network by the end of 2019.
Northwestel’s COO Curtis Shaw, quoted by the Financial Post, confirmed that Northwestel’s new backbone will be based on Telesat’s Ka-band high-throughput satellite set for launch in 2018, and will multiply available bandwidth for local government, business, health and education institutions approximately 20-fold, whilst tripling residential broadband users’ maximum speeds to around 15Mbps. Northwestel will enable open wholesale access to the backbone capacity for ISPs such as QINIQ, which operates a hybrid satellite/4G wireless network delivering broadband internet services to all 25 communities across Nunavut, servicing a population of approximately 36,000 people spread across two million square kilometres. QINIQ was established by SSi Micro, Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation and other partners, and is managed by SSi Micro, itself an ISP covering the Northwest Territories/Nunavut.