Anik B Pilot Projects
In 1972, Anik A, the first commercial domestic communications satellite was launched, followed by Anik A2, A3, Anik B in 1978, Anik C1, C2, C3, Anik D1, D2 and Anik E1 and E2. Anik A is significant as the world's first domestic communications satellite to be placed in a geostationary orbit. That is, the satellite rotates with the earth and remains in the same position relative to places on the surface of the earth. Telesat Canada, a partnership between Canadian telecommunications carriers and the federal government formed in 1969 to own and operate the satellites, is now owned by Bell Canada Enterprises.
Experiments using the Hermes satellite demonstrated the application of satellite communications to health care delivery, education, community development, public administration and other areas. These experiments demonstrated significant interest by user groups in the public services sectors in testing and developing new services utilizing satellite technology. The launch of ANIK B made it possible to further test Hermes type applications, since the Department of Communications (DOC) had a continuing responsibility to prove out new services, to ensure that desirable services had a fair chance to be tested and decisions regarding their future desirability could be made. The progression was a logical one, first the Hermes experiments, secondly the Anik B pilot projects and third the decisions regarding operational systems.
Anik B was a dual-band satellite, having transponders at 6/4 GHz and 14/12 GHz. The 6/4 GHz system was used by Telesat to replace the operational capacity provided by one of the Anik A series satellites. The 14/12 Ghz system was leased from Telesat in 1977 by the Department of Communications for the pilot projects, whose objectives were:
- to determine the viability of telecommunications services designed to meet identified public service requirements.
- to develop the knowledge and expertise to better utilize 14/12 GHz satellite communications technology.
- to develop expertise and create awareness in user institutions of the potential of telecommunications to deliver new services.
- to assess the operational feasibility and desirability of a variety of new telecommunications services.
The DOC's role was that of a catalyst for interaction between the users of the satellite technology and the providers of these services. The program was initiated as a means of identifying viable options for the future.
The Anik B pilot projects were carried out in the same spirit of co-operation that marked the Hermes experimental program. DOC worked closely with agencies responsible for the provision of public services through the pilot projects. DOC provided satellite time and twenty ground stations (modified Hermes terminals). Project participants were expected to bear the costs of project development, operation and evaluation, where possible.
DOC Headquarters dealt with the Anik B pilot program as an entity. It was responsible for program goals, policy considerations, management of overall resources and long range planning to promote a smooth transition to following programs.
The CRC dealt with the program at the project level. CRC was responsible for definition of communications systems, development of pilot projects and the implementation of approved projects. B.C. Blevis was the Director General of Space Technology and Applications. N. George Davies, was Director of the Space Communications Program Office at CRC. J.W.B. Day was the Communications Systems/Ground Terminals Leader. W.T. Kerr was Manager of Experiments Co-ordination and Doris Jelly acted as Assistant Manager of Experiments Co-ordination. Many other people within the government and the private sector worked on the Anik B pilot projects.
The DOC/Telesat contract was for two years, starting March 1, 1979 and ending in 1981. There was an option to extend the service, which was exercized. The satellite service was provided free to public service users, except where there was a commercial benefit in which case the user contributed costs accordingly. DOC maintained the earth terminals and provided limited consultation. In total, nineteen projects were undertaken. In 1980, the department leased one of the channels back to Telesat, who then re-leased it to La SETTE. The channel was used by La SETTE to distribute videotaped programming from France to cable stations in Quebec. This was the world's first commercial service in the 14/12 GHz band.
Several concepts that were introduced with the Hermes experiments were demonstrated to be operationally feasible during the Anik B trials and were continued on to commercial operation. These included the delivery of TV Ontario educational programming throughout Ontario by satellite; the formation and operation of the Knowledge Network, an educational channel in British Columbia;and the formation of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. Other services such as a tele-health network in Newfoundland and tele-conferencing for the Government of Ontario, tried first by satellite, were continued via terrestrial facilities.
Other systems successfully developed by engineers at CRC were the use of a small terminal for originating television programs (called the Satellite News Gathering terminal) and a terminal on a stabilized platform for use on an offshore drill rig. An easily transportable "suitcase" terminal was developed to provide telephone service. These earth stations were all later used commercially.
There were several important outcomes of the Hermes and Anik B programs. The concept of satellite communication was revolutionized by the very small earth stations that could easily be erected almost anywhere without being constrained by interference to sites far from cities. In partiuclar the concept of Direct-to-home Broadcasting was shown to be technically feasible. The project with the widest impact was the direct broadcasting service to remote areas. For these projects, the DOC purchased one hundred low-cost receivers from SED Systems of Saskatoon, half for use in British Columbia, the Yukon and Northwest Territories and half for Ontario.
The Anik B pilot projects built on the success of the Hermes experiments. With the success of the Anik B projects, Telesat made arrangements to continue with the commercial use of the 14/12 GHz band. This led to the Anik C satellites, which provided commercial service in the 14/12 GHz band.
Anik B Information Exchange Meeting. Ottawa; DOC, October 1977.
Philips, Robert. Anik B (pamphlet) Ottawa; Department of Communications, April 1982.