Nunavut hamlet cooks up wireless network

Tired of waiting for the Federal Government to deliver on its promise of broadband connectivity in rural and remote Canada, a Nunavut town has set up fixed wireless access for its citizens using its own budget.

Fifty businesses and residences in the Hamlet of Baker Lake are now up and running

with the service, with another dozen or more to be added before the end of the year, said operations manager Joe Aupaluktuq.

“”First we were doing dial-up service, and even though we had quite a few phone lines, it was just congested,”” he said. “”People were complaining they couldn’t get on and when they did get on, they were having problems with the user name and passwords.””

Ottawa-based RAMTelecom recently completed the first phase of deployment in Baker Lake using WaveRider Communications Inc.’s Last Mile Solution wireless network. RAMTelecom put in the necessary satellite technology last year.

“”I’d like to say we’re there because we’re a pretty face, but we’re there for some pretty good reasons. The people of Nunavut are pretty frustrated with their existing telephone infrastructure,”” said RAMTelecom director of sales Gregg Patterson.

The fixed wireless solution improves upon dial-up with speeds up to 2 Mbps, but even dial-up is faster than the T1 over satellite connection the town has for its schools and health care centre. The Government of Nunavut handled that installation about three years ago, according to Aupaluktuq, but inclement weather meant that the service would go down for weeks at a time during the winter months.

The advantage of the WaveRider system is that the antennae can be installed indoors. “”Do you remember those commercials about download rigor mortis? Now we’re thinking a little bit more like Panasonic: Slightly ahead of our time,”” said Aupaluktuq, paraphrasing a Panasonic slogan.

The town is charging its residents unlimited access to the Internet for $60 a month and has the option of increasing its bandwidth to accommodate more users. “”It’s the only way to do it instead of waiting for funding,”” said Aupaluktuq. “”We haven’t heard anything from the provincial level for offsetting the cost.””

Aupaluktuq said he hasn’t had any luck with the Federal Government either, but he’s planning on trying again this week. The Feds didn’t return calls for comment at press time. Alison Rogan, manager of training, information and partnerships for sustainable development for the Government of Nunavut, said the territory is due to deliver a report authored by a coalition of government and private sector interests within the next month. That report, she said, would likely address Aupaluktuq’s concerns about covering the cost of fixed wireless.

According to Aupaluktuq, Baker Lake is assessing the feasibility of moving its health care facility and schools’ Internet access from T1 to fixed wireless. At the moment, he said, residents are buying computers just to be able to access the improved Internet service.


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