Arctic Fibre Inc. picks Iqaluit cable landing spot
Company firms up financing, plans submissions this fall to NIRB, NPC
Arctic Fibre Inc.’s ambitious marine cable builders took a group of Iqaluit community leaders to the Apex beach on the afternoon of Aug. 19 to let them view the landing spot they’ve chosen to connect Iqaluit to the company’s proposed London-to-Tokyo fibre optic line.
“I think there’s a lot that can happen in this community and I think we are creating a great public service that will be a great economic driver,” Doug Cunningham, Arctic Fibre’s president and CEO, said later that evening in a presentation at Iqaluit’s Hotel Arctic.
The company’s proposed landing spot for Iqaluit lies just past the end of the access road that leads to the old Hudson Bay Co. buildings on the Apex beach.
Arctic Fibre officials and consultants said an armoured shield would protect the section of the cable that would run through the tidal flats to the beach. It would also be laid within a covered trench to protect it from ice-scouring.
The only infrastructure at the site would be a covered manhole to receive the cable.
From that point, Arctic Fibre’s customers — which could include telephone companies, internet service providers, broadcasters and others — would connect local Iqaluit telecom services to the marine cable.
Arctic Fibre plans to lay an undersea cable to London, New York City and Tokyo past Nunavut through the waters of the Canadian Arctic to meet a growing demand for bandwidth in Asia and Europe.
The backbone route would connect seven communities in Nunavut that contain about 52 per cent of the territory’s population: Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, and Taloyak.
Another backbone line would lead from a point near Cape Dorset past the east coast of Hudson Bay to the Cree-Inuit community of Chisasibi. From there it would eventually connect with New York City through Montreal.
Through an arrangement with a firm called Quintillion, Arctic Fibre would also extend its reach to communities in Alaska, including Prudhoe Bay, Barrow, Wainwright, Nome and Kotzebue.
To connect the 23 Nunavut and Nunavik communities that are not served directly by Arctic Fibre’s backbone route, the company is proposing that Industry Canada spend $230 million on a variety of cable spur lines and nine microwave hops.
High-speed fibre optic connections to those communities would likely bring dramatic reductions in the cost of telecommunications and allow regional and local telecom firms to offer faster and cheaper internet, cell phone and other telecommunication services.
“My vision is to put Nunavut on the information highway. I think it’s evident to everybody that you cannot progress without better communications, in education, in distance medicine, for example,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said the company has secured enough financing to begin work on the project.
That work would start once they receive the necessary permits from Industry Canada and other agencies.
“We’re ready to go,” Cunningham said, saying the company has raised $230 million of the project’s estimated capital cost of $620 million, and plans to secure a $400 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
To get their required cable landing licences from the federal government, the company must first receive approvals from the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission.
To that end, Arctic Fibre will make submissions to the NIRB and the NPC later this fall, after they finish a tour of the seven affected Nunavut backbone communities, which started Aug. 19 in Iqaluit.
If the necessary permissions arrive on time, the company could start work early next summer with surveys of their proposed Nunavut landing sites, followed by the laying of cable later in the summer, using a specialized vessel owned by a firm called Tyco.
One of the more difficult sections of the trans-Arctic cable route is likely to be a 31-kilometre crossing of the Boothia Peninsula near Taloyoak.
The firm also plans a mid-point cable landing station at Cambridge Bay, which would host backup power facilities and other infrastructure.