One of the two original direct-to-home satellite television applicants approved by the Commission in 1995 was ExpressVu Inc., a partnership consisting of BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) Inc. (33 1/3 per cent), Tee-Comm Electronics Inc. (33 1/3 per cent), Canadian Satellite Communications (Cancom) Inc. (19 per cent) and WIC Western International Communications Ltd. (14 1/3 per cent). As with that to be provided by Star Choice, the other successful applicant, ExpressVu service was scheduled to be provided on Telesat’s E-1 satellite.
ExpressVu, however, was also caught up in Telesat’s technical problems on Anik E-1 and the launch of the service was delayed until 1997. That same year, Bell acquired Tee-Comm Electronics’ interest in the company and effective control of ExpressVu moved to Bell.
Bell’s DTH aspirations were directed towards a vertically-integrated satellite service company, which would include ownership of the space segment. Telesat Canada, Canada’s national satellite operator, was originally jointly owned by the federal government and the Canadian telecommunications consortium, Stentor Canadian Network Management. Stentor, which became simply the Stentor Alliance, was previously known as Telecom Canada or the TransCanada Telephone System (TCTS) and originally, TCTS included Canadian Telephone and Supplies Ltd., a subsidiary of BC Tel, formerly the British Columbia Telephone Company; AGT Limited (formerly Alberta Government Telephones); Saskatchewan Telecommunications, The Manitoba Telephone Systems; Tele-Direct (Publications) Inc., a subsidiary of BCE Inc. (“BCE”); The New Brunswick Telephone Company Limited; Maritime Telegraph & Telephone Company Limited; The Island Telephone Company Limited; Newfoundland Telephone Company Limited; Quebec Telephone; and Spar Aerospace Limited.
In 1992, the federal government sold its stake in Telesat Canada to Alouette Telecommunications Ltd., a company jointly owned by Stentor, including Bell, and Spar Aerospace. Bell completed the acquisition of Telesat six years later, in 1998, when it acquired 100 per cent ownership of Telesat, and began the move towards launching and owning its own DTH satellites. (Within two years, Bell had also acquired Canada’s international satellite carrier, Teleglobe, which it held until selling the international satellite carrier in 2006.)
In the early years of ExpressVu operations, the company began actively to seek to put a stop to the black market and grey market satellite TV pirate operations that were bringing in distant signals illegally. The company persuaded the RCMP to become involved in investigations and laying charges, and was successful in court actions that re-affirmed the legal position of the licensed DTH service providers.
In May, 1999, the move to vertical integration and ownership of a space segment became a reality with the launch of Nimiq, for which ExpressVu was the primary, majority customer. Nimiq was the first “true” Canadian Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) offering DBS frequencies higher in the Ku-band, specifically 17/12 GHz. This allowed for smaller receive dishes at customers’ homes.
That same year, Bell had received CRTC approval for Bell Satellite Services Inc. (BSSI), its own national satellite relay distribution undertaking (SRDU), to compete with the Cancom/Star Choice carrier services.
Three years later, in December, 2002, Telesat launched ExpressVu’s second direct broadcast satellite, Nimiq 2, on a Proton rocket from Kazakhstan.
ExpressVu continued the expansion of its space segment fleet of satellites, while its parent company moved fully into convergence activities in broadcasting and print media. Towards the end of 2006, Bell announced its intention to sell Telesat Canada, while retaining ExpressVu’s special relationship with its satellite carrier.