Phone, internet services back up after Telesat satellite issue in Northern Canada

Phone and internet services have been restored in all satellite-served northern communities after problems with a Telesat satellite disrupted communications in a wide swath of northern Quebec and Nunavut on Sunday afternoon.

Anik F2 satellite cut out around 5 p.m. ET Sunday

The Telesat Anik F2 satellite stopped working around 5 p.m. ET Sunday, resulting in a widespread service outage, but internet and phone services in parts of Northern Canada started returning Monday. (Pat Nagle/CBC)

Phone and internet services have been restored in all satellite-served northern communities after problems with a Telesat satellite disrupted communications in a wide swath of northern Quebec and Nunavut on Sunday afternoon. 

After about 19 hours, debit and credit services in much of Nunavut are finally back online, as is RCMP dispatch. 

Many in Iqaluit woke up today to find their internet service down, and ATMs out of service. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
"There was a major inconvenience for our customers, but thank god in the last 10 minutes things are up and running and we're ready to go," said Jim Jones, manager of Arctic Ventures Marketplace in Iqaluit. 

The Telesat Anik F2 satellite cut out around 5 p.m. ET Sunday. That knocked out internet in most of Nunavut as well as in seven communities in the N.W.T. and Old Crow in Yukon.

 A 'technical anomaly'

In a statement, Northwestel said the satellite, which helps provide cellphone and internet service to communities across the North, experienced a "technical anomaly" that resulted in loss of services.

The outage would also have impacted ATMs and aircraft in some communities, said John Flaherty, vice-president of marketing for Telesat, early Monday morning. 

The satellite provides service to providers such as Northwestel, SSi Micro, Shaw Direct, Xplornet, Bell Mobility and U.S. satellite internet provider Wildblue.

Internet in most of the 25 Nunavut communities serviced by SSi Micro's Qiniq network went down, the company said in a news release Monday. Qiniq customers in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet were not affected, the company said.

"These three communities have access to service from two satellites, Anik F2 and Anik F3, providing customers a redundant 'backup' link and additional capacity," said the release.

That created some confusing situations, for example, people in Iqaluit could make calls between cellphones, and from landline to landline, but not from a cellphone to a landline.

That left the territory relying on backup satellite phones to keep in touch with hamlets.

Cause still under investigation

Shaw Direct said in a tweet early Monday the outage was creating a signal issue for its French stations and HD channels. 

It said "the affected satellite performed emergency movements for reasons that are currently under investigation."  Shaw estimates service will be restored at 11:30 a.m. ET.

A problem with the same satellite in 2011 grounded flights across the North and affected internet, cellphone and bank machine services.

Flaherty said this is "definitely not" the same problem as 2011. 

"We still haven't ascertained what caused the issue. We have a working theory, but at this point it would be speculation. It's too early to say."

On Monday morning, Flaherty said the company was on track to have all service restored by noon.

Customers affected by the service interruption tweeted out their displeasure with the situation.

With files from CBC's Steve Rukavina


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