Nunavut is 100% satellite dependent
The technical challenges and capital costs associated with serving a small number of potential users spread across vast geographic distances, have all shaped the current availability of broadband in Nunavut. Subscription rates are high, access speeds and data plans are limiting and can become cost-prohibitive when excess usage charges are applied.
In addition to limiting screen-based activities, the lack of high-speed broadband has severe implications for the delivery of essential services such as banking, air traffic control, health services and weather monitoring.
Dependency on subsidies
The market for telecoms services in Nunavut is heavily depended on the provision of subsidies. Northwestel and SSi Micro (Qiniq) currently receive operating subsidies from the Federal government. Northwestel receives and distributes satellite signals in all communities in Nunavut and in association with Bell Mobility provides voice and internet connectivity. SSi Micro receives and distributes signals, providing internet and mobility services in all Nunavut communities over fixed wireless technology.
Satellite Technology has limited capacity
All current satellites with coverage in Nunavut can’t provide any more capacity. That includes the latest satellite that Telesat launched in July 2018. New capacity can be made available by either repurposing an existing satellite (temporary solution) or the launch of a new satellite (will take many years).
As fibre optic networks are not expected to reach Nunavut before 2023 at the earliest, satellite-based services are likely to continue to be the foundation of telecom services for Nunavut and grow congested until new capacity is made available. However, current planning should not neglect the future arrival of fibre.
Of all the Low-Earth Orbit Satellite projects in development world-wide, Telesat LEO is the only constellation purposely designed to serve the Canadian Arctic and may be the only solution to bridge the digital divide in Nunavut. Supported by the Federal Government, Telesat has confirmed an in-service target date to begin its operations commercially in 2022.
Based on the CRTC’s objectives of a national minimum of 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload by 2030-31, an estimated 110,000 Mbps of total capacity would be needed (110Gbps).
Current satellite technology based on bandwidth projection models are deemed insufficient to meet broadband service expectations as described in the national broadband strategy, let alone present needs.
A combination of satellite technology, including LEO, can provide enough capacity for Nunavut to catchup and possibly provide growth of extra capacity until a submarine fibre cable comes to the rescue by 2025.
Distribution of Content
Canada’s embrace of streaming is second to the US with a 74% penetration rate for internet-based video services of which 47% are Netflix subscribers. Overall, an estimated 41% of Canadians use streaming video services on a daily basis.
Internet-Based Video Services Segment share in Canada (2017):
• SVOD: Netflix (65%) and Amazon Video (9%)
• TVOD: iTunes (67%)
• AVOD: YouTube (25%), Facebook (13.2%) and Instagram (5.2%)
Internet is the favourite platform for the younger generations and has the potential for growth while elders are more inclined to access content over traditional television, which will witness further decline between now and 2030. For at least the next 5 years, a combined approach of television and internet distribution platforms would provide the most effective distribution model.
A staged approach for Inuit TV is recommended. Focus on integrating main features in the first phase, to reduce complexity and cost. Additional features can be added at a later date when the app and website gains popularity.
Nunavut Screen-Based Industry
Connectivity options accessible to Nunavut-based filmmakers are not adequate for handling increasingly large video files. The most important contributing factors required of an internet connection for a filmmaker are upload speed and high to unlimited monthly usage limits. Both of which are failing badly in Nunavut. One hour of video footage in HD quality can take over a day to transfer on a 2Mbps upload internet connection in Nunavut.
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