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NWT pushes Mackenzie Valley fibre link

September 20, 2013

The N.W.T. government plans to start construction on the fiber optic link up the Mackenzie Valley during the winter 2014-2015. The goal is to finish the link by 2016. The N.W.T. government committed to $7 million for the link in the 2013-2014 budget.

The GNWT Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger stated that “The limitations of our current communications infrastructure are preventing our government from providing better programs and services to our residents, particularly in the areas of health and education.” But the real draw for GNWT is the possibility that European space scientific organizations will invest millions of dollars in new earth stations in Inuvik. There are now two giant 13 meter satellite antennas in Inuvik. One belongs to the German Space Agency and the other to the Swedish Space Corporation. The federal government plans to start building its own this summer.

The Europeans may build as many as 10 earth stations, but will not do so without a fibre optic link. The bandwidth that fibre can provide would provide real time data for air traffic control, national defence and topographic mapping. Kiruna in northern Sweden is host to a number of important earth stations and the GNWT hopes such a scientific hub could be established in Inuvik. In Kiruna, Sweden there is the ESTRACK Station the European Space Agency, Esrange, the European Space and Sounding Rocket Range, as well as an EISCAT station and EISCAT scientific headquarters, the Institute of Space Physics and the Department of Space Science belonging to Luleå University of Technology.

The total cost of the fibre optic link from Ft.Simpson to Inuvik is estimated at $80M.