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Satellite outage hits US and Canada

A 'technical anomaly' took out services from Telesat's Anik F2 satellite on Thursday, affecting flights, ATMs and communications in remote communities across North America
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Written by David Meyer on

The Anik F2 satellite stopped providing services early on Thursday morning, cutting out communications for many people in the US and Canada.

Its operator, Telesat Canada, described the glitch as "a technical anomaly" and said the Anik F2 satellite could be returned to normal operation. Reports suggest the downtime caused flight cancellations, while also taking ATMs and mobile phone services out of action in some areas.

"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 minimise the impact to their networks," the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The cause of the malfunction has not been identified, but is not related to a solar storm that happened the same day, Telesat told the Ottawa Business Journal. "There was an issue on the spacecraft, and it went into safe mode," company spokesman John Flaherty told the newspaper.

In safe mode, the satellite shuts itself down and turns itself toward the sun, with its panels in the best position to power its batteries.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 39 communities in the north of Canada lost their long-distance phone service during the outage, which began around 6:30am local time.

Internet and some cable TV services were also affected, as were flights and ATMs that relied on Anik F2 for connectivity. However, satellite phones in the affected communities remained operational, as they use a different satellite, according to reports. Neverthless, the problems could affect thousands of people across North America.

ZDNet UK's sister site CNET News.com reported that satellite-based ISPs including WildBlue were also hit, with customers losing web access during the outage.

Boeing-built Anik F2 was launched in 2004 to provide communications services, including commercial satellite-based broadband, to North America, including rural areas. It has another eight years to run on its contracted life.


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