Work on Nunavik’s fiber optic network starts in July

Kativik Regional Government eyes funding to extend cable into Ungava Bay.

By Sarah Rogers, Nunatsiaq News - June 3, 2021
This Alcatel Submarine Networks cable ship will arrive in Hudson Bay in July to start installing the first phase of Nunavik’s fiber optic network. (KRG via Nunatsiaq News)

The first leg of Nunavik’s fiber optic cable network is set to be installed along the Hudson Bay coast starting at the end of July, officials with the Kativik Regional Government’s Tamaani Internet said this week.

The KRG awarded Alcatel Submarine Networks the contract to install the Eastern Arctic Undersea Fibre Optic Network, which will extend an underwater fiber network this summer from Chisasibi, Quebec, on the shore of James Bay, north, with spurs to Kuujjuaraapik, Umiujaq, Inukjuak and Puvirnituq.

The French firm is expected to start its work at the north end of the network, with a schedule to arrive offshore of Puvirnituq on July 29, Daryl Combden, director for the Kativik Regional Government, told regional councillors at a meeting in Tasiujaq this week.

Alcatel will spend about six weeks installing marine cable to each of those four communities, Combden said. The electronics installation and testing will happen in November, while the high-speed activation is set for December.

A look to the future: this map shows the KRG’s plans to connect all 14 Nunavik communities to fiber optic cable, plus the Government of Nunavut’s future plans for a mixed underwater and terrestrial fiber network to communities in South Baffin and the Kivalliq. (KRG via Nunatsiaq News)

A recent landslide recorded upstream of Kuujjuaraapik, which dumped an estimated 45 million cubic meters of debris into the Great Whale River, is not expected to impact the installation to that community, Combden said.

With fiber optic set to be operation by the end of that year, that should free up about 25 percent of Nunavik’s satellite capacity to serve other communities, Combden said.

Tamaani Internet is now looking for funding to extend that network to the rest of region’s communities.

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 close the circuit, by bringing that submarine cable from Kangiqsujuaq down through Ungava Bay, with spurs in Quaqtaq, Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Kuujjuaq.

“That will be the final piece of the puzzle,” Combden told council on Tuesday.