First stretch of cable laid as Nunavik’s fiber optic project gets going

An Alcatel Submarine Networks cable ship arrived off Puvirnituq shore on Aug. 6.

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Puvirnituq Mayor Lucy Qalingo and her husband Isaac Aupalu are pictured just outside the Nunavik community on Aug. 7, the day the first fiber optic cable was pulled onto shore. (KRG via Nunatsiaq News)

Crews have begun laying the first portion of Nunavik’s underwater fiber network off the Hudson Bay coast.

Alcatel Submarine Networks, the French firm with the contract to lay the fiber, arrived offshore from Puvirnituq on its cable ship, the Ile D’Aix, on Aug. 6.

The region’s first fiber optic cable was pulled onto shore in the community the following day, said Michael Gordon, director general of the Kativik Regional Government in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Alcatel will spend about six weeks installing marine cable to each of those four communities slated for fiber, Gordon said.

The Kativik Regional Government’s Tamaani Internet is overseeing the installation.

When finished, the Eastern Arctic Undersea Fibre Optic Network will extend northward from Chisasibi, Quebec, with spurs connecting to Kuujjuaraapik, Umiujaq, Inukjuak and Puvirnituq.

The Ile D’Aix is scheduled to head to Inukjuak on Aug. 22, then onto Umiujaq Sept. 2 and Kuujjuaraapik Sept. 12, before sailing to Chisasibi to finalize the installation at the end of September.

“In every community, the cable landing crew will be preparing for the ship’s arrival,” Gordon said.

“This schedule is subject to change, as weather remains the boss out there.”

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In Chisasibi, the shore crew will prepare to lay cable from the local landing station to the ship once it arrives in September. At that point, the crew will tie the cables together in an operation called “the final splice” to connect the four Nunavik communities to the network, Gordon said.

The electronics installation and testing will happen in November, while the high-speed activation is set for December.

Tamaani estimates the new network should help free up about 25 percent of Nunavik’s satellite capacity to other communities.

The company is also looking for funding to extend the fibre network to the rest of region.

Earlier this year, the CRTC’s Broadband Fund allotted $36.3 million to help extend that new undersea fiber network north from Puvirnituq to four more communities: Akulivik, Ivujivik, Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq, as well as Nunavik’s two mine sites.

Now KRG officials say they’re looking to the Quebec government to kick in the remaining $34 million needed to finalize that leg of the project, which they hope to have in place by the end of 2023.

Next, the regional government is eyeing more government funding to connect Quaqtaq, Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Kuujjuaq.

In the meantime, Tamaani has secured $17 million to build a terrestrial fiber link between Kuujjuaq and Schefferville, Quebec, to connect to that community’s fiber optic network.