XM Satellite Weather for Canada

By Kevin Psutka


COPA has been working this issue ever since satellite weather was introduced in the US a few years ago. My column in March 2007, entitled "Who’s on First" archive.copanational.org/non-members/PresidentsColumn/Presmar07.htm, explained the complicated twists and turns of who owns the data in Canada compared with the US, why some weather data from Canada is provided internationally and in turn is available from international sources but not available here (at least not directly), and finally what is planned for Canada. I am pleased to report that progress is being made but it is difficult to find out where to purchase it. Right now, the only advertised service available in Canada is from WSI. It involves purchasing dedicated, installed equipment to receive the service, a monthly or yearly subscription service and having either a compatible installed display, such as Garmin 430/530 or MX-20, laptop computers running Windows or a PDA running Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 but there are limitations on what data can be displayed. Information on compatibility and pricing can be found at www.wsi.com/aviation/products/inflight/.

XM weather differs from WSI primarily in the way that it is provided and the variety of devices on which it can be displayed. Although a dedicated receiver is required for installed displays, XM can be received directly by compatible portable units such as Garmin’s 396 and 496, making this a more affordable solution that is truly portable between aircraft.

As explained in the "Who’s on First" article, a combination of issues had previously delayed the sale of XM’s weather service in Canada. But Canadian information has been available to US subscribers of XM weather since it was announced at Sun n Fun in April 2007. In order to subscribe, you need a US credit card and a US address but this can be an inconvenient or unavailable option for some and it is considered illegal by others (similar to the grey market satellite TV issue). In any event, the service that is available to US subscribers can be found on XM Radio’s US site at www.xmradio.com/weather/overview.xmc. To get Canadian information, US subscribers have to purchase the "Aviator" package http://www.xmradio.com/pdf/existing/weather/av_subscription_pkg.pdf for $49.99US per month plus an activation fee of $75US. To also receive XM radio, an additional $6.99US per month plus an activation fee of $14.99US is required. All prices are subject to taxes and other unspecified fees, according to the web site.

XM Canada has been working in partnership with their US counterparts to deliver similar service to Canadian subscribers. Shira Yoskovitch, Director, Product Development and Supply for XM Satellite Radio Canada, says that XM Canada has done a "soft launch" of the weather services. She said that XM Canada has "not actively marketed this availability at this point but will do so once we’ve established a broader availability of weather service packages. Right now, we are targeting early in 2008".

So, it is possible to order a Canadian subscription to XM weather. XM Canada is offering the "Aviator" weather package, identical to the US version so that Canadian and US weather information is available regardless where the subscription is purchased. According to Shira, customers can simply call the Canadian Listener Care Centre 1-877-438-9677 with their radio ID number to sign up. However, unlike the US where subscribers can elect to not purchase XM radio (audio) programming option, XM Canada is currently only offering a combined Aviator + Audio package, in either 3-month or 1-year subscription packages to customers who have XM-enabled receivers and antennas.

Canadian pricing is follows (in Canadian $ plus taxes) for Aviator + Audio:

Activation fee $89.99

3-month subscription $209.94

1-year subscription $839.76

Here’s a list of services and their associated regional availability:

High Resolution Doppler Radar U.S. / Puerto Rico
High Resolution Canadian Radar Canada
Radar Coverage U.S. / Canada
Precipitation Type (at surface) U.S. / Puerto Rico
METARs U.S. / Canada
TAFs U.S. / Canada
County Warnings U.S.
Canadian Weather Warnings Canada
City Forecasts U.S.
Freezing Level U.S. / Canada
Winds Aloft (at altitude) U.S. / Canada
Echo Tops U.S.
Severe Weather Storm Tracks U.S. / Puerto Rico
Satellite Mosaic U.S./Can/P.R.
SIGMETs U.S. / Canada
Surface Analysis U.S./Can/P.R.
Lightning U.S.