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Broadband Internet access in the Canadian Arctic

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Since 2004 the Canadian government has been engaged in a program to subsidize the cost of broadband Internet access in the Canadian Arctic, specifically the territory of Nunavut. Although it covers a land area greater than western Europe, Nunavut's population is less than 35,000 and distributed over an extremely wide area with a harsh arctic climate.

Industry Canada is the primary source of the funding.  This is distributed through the Nunavut  Broadband Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental entity which has contracted to build networks in 25 communities with the Yellowknife based VSAT ISP and technical services firm SSI Micro.  Known as QINIQ, the network was built in 2004 using C-band equipment and spectrum and TDMA technology.  The NBDC has recently completed a second phase of RFPs with its prime contractor, SSI, for additional services to meet needs not filled in the original 2004 project.


The August 16th issue of The Globe and Mail has an interesting post on other infrastructure projects in the Canadian north, including a new port for Iqaluit and housing.

In this post I will examine the reasons why this project is likely to remain government subsidized for the foreseeable future.  The primary reason is the cost of satellite bandwidth, but other factors are also involved.

The real size and weight of a flyaway VSAT system

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Occasionally we receive questions about the various subsystems involved with a flyaway VSAT system.  Although the antennas themselves are relatively small, the total package to link a remote location to the Internet requires several transit cases of equipment.  Depending on the number of users and scale of the LAN at the remote site, this can grow to quite a large collection of equipment. In this post we will detail what a default configuration looks like in terms of overall weight and volume.

The goal of any flyaway system is a high degree of portability, which unfortunately is frequently compromised in Afghanistan by the necessity for a high degree of electrical system protection from "dirty" power. The necessity to provide your own electricity by generator, solar or wind can also complicate logistics.  



125.00 kg TracStar 1200 P4K 1.2 meter 4-section Ku/Ka-band motorized VSAT antenna
42.92 kg Satellite modem, router, tracking controller in transit rack.
92.73 kg 2500 kVA voltage regulator + UPS in transit rack.
22.87 kg Rx, Tx and antenna control cables, AC electrical cables, etc.

283.52 kg, or 624.88 pounds

The volume occupied is 1.29 cubic meters, or 45.86 cubic feet.

You can download a generic weight and volume calculation from our website to see examples of a baseline configuration and a heavier, slightly more capable configuration.  Both of these are based on the same 1.2 meter fully motorized Ku-band antenna.