Ottawa company takes giant leap toward connecting remote communities

People living in Canada's North are finally getting faster internet service, thanks to Ottawa-based satellite communications company Telesat.

Telesat satellite launched in July providing high-speed internet service to Nunavut

Telesat's Telstar 18 Vantage communications satellite is launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sept. 10, 2018. Another Telesat satellite, launched in July, is already serving internet customers in remote communities in Nunavut. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP)

People living in Canada's North are finally getting faster internet service, thanks to Ottawa-based Telesat.

The satellite communications company launched two satellites aboard SpaceX rockets earlier this year. One, launched in July, has already begun transmitting to some communities in Nunavut.

"It will deliver 20 times more broadband connectivity than what they have today on the legacy infrastructure," Michele Beck, Telesat's vice-president of North American sales, told CBC Radio's All In A Day. "It's gigabits worth of internet connectivity."

Northwestel customers in Iqaluit, Arviat, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet are already seeing improved service, with 25 communities set to come online by the end of 2019.

The launch is the latest step in a plan to build the complete satellite network to cover the vast region. In September 2017, the federal government invested $50 million in the project. 

An artist's rendering of the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite, launched in July. (Submitted by Telesat)

Thrilling launch

Telesat contracts other companies to build and launch its satellites. SpaceX, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has been delivering the company's latest technology into space.

"SpaceX is a new, very innovative company. They seemed to be reliable, priced competitively, and basically they won the bid," Beck said.

The launch of Telesat's Telstar 19 Vantage satellite from Cape Canaveral in July was breathtaking, Beck said, and a great experience for the Ottawa employees who were able to witness it.

"The fact that it was at Cape Canaveral, fairly close, [meant that] there was a larger group this time that was able to attend the launch and view it."

Beck said the launches are a stepping stone to a more ambitious project called Leo Constellation, which will eventually deliver fibre-optic-like speed and quality that can serve customers anywhere on the planet.

"We could hit any ship in the oceans and provide broadband connectivity to moving ships, airplanes as they're flying. We can hit and serve basically any point on earth with broadband connectivity."