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Dying satellite won’t cut off NWT communities, minister says

Ulukhaktok in 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Eight NWT communities whose satellite communications lifeline will soon crash to Earth won’t suffer a loss of service, the territorial government says.

Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite is running out of fuel three years earlier than planned, the company said in August, after a thruster malfunction for the past year forced the satellite to use a fuel-hungry workaround.

Anik F2 is used by Northwestel to provide a range of phone and internet services to Colville Lake, Gamètı̀, Łútsël K’é, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Sambaa K’e, Ulukhaktok and Wekweètì.

The Boeing-manufactured satellite has been operational since October 2004. The fuel issue means Anik F2 is expected to drop out of service by early February 2023.



At the start of September, Northwestel told the CBC it was working with Telesat to figure out a solution.

In the NWT Legislative Assembly on Monday, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said Northwestel had since told her there would be no disruption for residents of the eight affected communities.

Answering questions from Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly, Wawzonek said Northwestel had advised her that, among other options, it would enter agreements involving alternative satellites to maintain its service.

There are “a few different things in play,” Wawzonek said. “We are being assured there will not be an interruption in service.”

The finance and industry minister, who holds responsibility for telecoms, said she understood agreements to use other satellites would be in place “by the end of this calendar year,” more than a month before Anik F2 is now expected to drop offline.