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North Americans face disruptions after Telesat satellite glitch

Telesat is working to restore service to customers across Canada and the United States after its Anik F2 satellite experienced a “technical anomaly” early Thursday.

The Ottawa-based owner and operator of one of the largest and most powerful telecommunications satellites orbiting the Earth said it is in control of the device.

“All indications are that it is healthy and can be returned to service,” spokesman John Flaherty said in a news release.

“Telesat is now undertaking to return the satellite to normal operations and is working with its customers on Anik F2 to restore traffic in an orderly manner and minimize the impact to their networks.”

The satellite supports a variety of services including voice and data for Internet, broadcaster and business customers in both countries.

The disruption or “loss of earth lock” affected services for customers including Shaw Direct TV, The Canadian Press news agency, companies that use C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band services and remote communities in the Far North.

Telesat didn’t provide details of what caused the satellite to shut down and turn away from the Earth as a safety precaution.

Novanet Communications, which provides customers the satellite signal from Telesat, says the process of restoring service is similar to what needs to be done after the breaker in a home shuts off.

“Once the earth lock has been established it’s a matter of slowly turning on all the transponders one at a time,” said Novanet official who didn’t want to be identified.

He said the process could take hours.

Telecom analyst Carmi Levy said such satellite disruptions can be significant because they affect voice, Internet, television and telecom services.

“It’s a very rare type of failure for a satellite to simply go off line in an unplanned fashion,” he said from London, Ont., where his phone service was affected.

“There’s enough redundancy built into these birds, that for example if a circuit fails there’s usually a number of other circuits that can take over for it.”

Even banking ATM machines that rely on satellite service can be affected, although there have been no reports of widespread outages, Levy added.

Remote native communities that rely on satellite service along with mining and resource companies likely faced disruptions.

Telesat has a fleet of 12 satellites, with three more under construction, and manages the operations of additional satellites for third parties.