Communications in the North has always been a challenge due to topography, climate, and distance. For example, broadband coverage, which we take for granted, was not available if you were anywhere 65 degrees north latitude. Imagine living in North America and not having high-speed internet. That was the case for years, but now it has changed.
Galaxy Broadband and Hunter Communications recently announced a new service to provide high-power Ku-band satellite service to Canadian federal departments and agencies using the new Hunter Ku-band satellite coverage. Now, for the first time, this service is available through Shared Services Canada.
This service will provide users with high-speed broadband connection up to 80 degrees, a farther reach of over 1,600 kilometres north than was previously available. Aeronautical and maritime users have been using the Hunter beam between 76 to 80 degrees north latitude with antennas as small as 30 centimetres, providing a reduction in cost and complexity over prior satellite equipment used in the region.
Vanguard recently spoke with Brent Perrott from Hunter Communications and Doug Harvey from Galaxy Broadband about this game-changing solution for communications in the Arctic.
Q. To help us understand the magnitude of this service, can you share with us the significance of this contract and what does it mean for the Canadian Armed Forces?
BP – The Hunter beam has unique attributes. It can make new things happen. Its design was intended to focus on Canada, while most other beams were intended to cover the larger US market. This focus translates into higher power in Canada’s North – and higher power means lower cost, and the ability to use much smaller antennas. This means it is ideal for mobile applications including manned and unmanned aeronautical, maritime or any application needing small antennas for broadband applications. Combine that with Galaxy’s superior service platforms, we believe this to be a solution that the military has been calling for – broadband coverage of vessels transiting the Northwest Passage, live-video streaming from UAVs and broadband connections to backpack antennas that our SOFCOM and Army Rangers can use in the North.
Q. When you say that the Hunter satellite capacity can make new things happen. What do you mean by that? Can you share some examples?
BP – In-flight connectivity or Wifi for airline passengers has been one of our largest markets due to the coverage and performance. For military applications, it could be much smaller antennas on all maritime vessels transiting the Northwest Passage and also be live-streaming from UAVs.
DH – If we look at an Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) doing northern maritime patrols, a vessel could live stream from cameras on the ship or from unmanned drones they are using to expand their monitoring area. Visual, infrared and thermal live-streaming direct to headquarters for real-time detection of any threats, whether a foreign submarine, a vessel in distress, a search and rescue or a potential oil slick in environmentally-sensitive waters.
Q. Why is the Hunter beam so effective for in-flight connectivity?
BP – Besides the higher power, there is another unique technical feature. Our nearest Ku-band satellite neighbours are 4 degrees away from our satellite in the geostationary arc instead of the normal 2 degrees, because of this we can transmit at much higher power without interfering with other satellites. Once again this translates into more throughput. Mbps at less cost, especially transmitting back from the aircraft. This advantage also applies to UAVs and ships using smaller antennas.
Q. Do you have other customers in Canada currently using the Hunter beam?
BP – Yes. The (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) CBC is one of our customers who has transitioned the distribution of programming to central collection points to our capacity. The CBC is Canada’s flagship broadcaster, so we appreciate the trust they afforded us, as this is one of their critical paths in their technical operations. Then we have oil and gas exploration in Western Canada and pleasure craft transiting the Northwest Passage. We also have a significant presence on the West Coast and Alaska as our coverage includes our western neighbour as well.
Q. Let’s talk a little about Galaxy, does Galaxy have experience providing northern services?
DH – Yes, a great deal. We have served customers in Nunavut and the Northwest territories successfully and we have the staff and the operational capability to deal with challenges of the northern climate.
Q. Do you have any incentive programs to encourage new military applications?
DH – We are always willing to do tests or trials that demonstrate the capability of the service. Our only request is for our customers to consider testing at 10 or 20 times the throughput they’ve been used to. Seeing that capability will open up a world of new applications that will enhance our military’s operational capabilities.