International Satellites – Canada’s Role

While domestic satellite systems were still under development, Canada had already launched an international player years earlier. In 1950, the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation was founded from a merger of the overseas telecommunications facilities of Cable and Wireless Ltd. and Canadian Marconi. The organization was later renamed Teleglobe and became Canada’s signatory to Intelsat, the International Satellite Communications Organization. Intelsat started in 1964, with Canada as a founding member, as an international satellite consortium, to own and operate a global communications system.

The international distribution of television signals began to increase in the 1980s with the launch of Ted Turner’s Cable News Network via Intelsat satellite. That year also saw the international satellite distribution of the Live-Aid concert to television viewers around the world, which was the beginning of advances in international satellite television that paralleled domestic satellite television distribution.

The trend to privatization necessitated by Canada’s involvement with WTO*, GATT** and NAFTA*** also extended to Canada’s international satellite carrier which was privatized in 1987. That was the year before its international satellite transmission coup, broadcasting the 1988 Winter Olympics. By the year 2000, Teleglobe Canada ended up within the portfolio of Bell Canada Enterprises where it remained until February, 2006, when BCE sold Teleglobe to Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL), India’s leading provider of long distance communications and Internet services.

(* World Trade Organization: **General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: ***North American Free Trade Agreement)