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Cable awaits second green light

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BEAUTY SPOT The pier at Old Head Beach, Louisburgh. Pic: John Paul Tiernan

Transatlantic fibre optic cable could land at Old Head by September

Anton McNulty

A TRANSATLANTIC fibre optic cable is expected to land at Old Head near Louisburgh in the autumn if the foreshore licence is granted later this year.
The America Europe Connect 2 (AEC-2) cable system is to branch off from the main cable, which runs from New Jersey to Denmark. It will then land at Old Head, providing a ‘superhighway’ of connectivity between Ireland and Europe.
The original foreshore licence that had been granted was quashed by the High Court following a challenge by a Clare Island fisherman, forcing the licence application to be started again.

Ashore in autumn
Andy Hudson of AquaComms, which owns and operates the cable, met with councillors at a recent meeting of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District. He said that the consultancy phase of the licensing process was coming to an end. Should the licence be granted, he expects the cable to come ashore in the autumn.
“We are still in midst of licence reapplication for the landing licence, with a view to landing the system in September of October this year,” he said.
The AEC-1 transatlantic cable came ashore in Killala Bay in 2015. According to Hudson, the AEC-2 is as important, as it will allow direct connectivity between Ireland and mainland Europe. This is important to companies like Facebook and Google, he said, because nobody knows if Brexit will result in taxes for telecommunication traffic in the future.
“This is the first system that connects Ireland to mainland Europe without passing through the UK. That is pretty important and will bring significant increase in transatlantic and European capacity for Ireland,” he added.
“Traffic which wants to go to mainland Europe will not now have to wash its face in the UK, it can go to the branch and take a right turn to Denmark and go further on to every capital city in Europe from that location,” he said.

Clare Island talk
The 7,500km-long cable from New Jersey to Denmark has already been laid, along with 100km of the Irish branch, with 150km still to be laid to Old Head. Once it lands in Old Head, the cable will join an existing network already in place and brought to the interconnect in Dublin.
The project was largely welcomed by the local councillors, who all stated that it is important the concerns of all stakeholders are listened to.
Mr Hudson said the company had worked with the fishing communities and a compensation fund was in place for any fishermen whose work is disrupted during the laying of the cable.
He added that they recently organised a webinar with the Clare Island community who had purchased a ‘spare piece’ of fibre optic cable and explained to them the best ways of going about connecting it to the mainland.
“It has nothing to do with this project ...We put together a presentation to people who are interested in laying that cable to the mainland and what they need to do to get a licence to land the cable. Putting a piece of cable across will not give them connectivity, they need a sponsor to bring broadband to them.
“We patched that altogether as a story board and they know exactly what they need to do, who they need to speak to and the various stakeholders they need to communicate with to make that project a success. They were very happy to have the webinar to walk through,” he explained.

Connectivity
When asked if Louisburgh and Mayo could benefit from the cable, Mr Hudson said that AquaComms is not an internet provider and and that it is up to whoever purchases the network to provide the service.
“We are a carriers’ carrier; we invest in the wet and we connect countries together as a super highway. We are not licensed to break the pipe down to be an internet service provider.
“Whoever purchases the main capacity from AquaComms breaks it down and sells it on. It is wholesale into retail if you like and that is where they distribute the capability into the local communities.”
Mr Hudson thanked Mayo County Council for their support and guidance.
Director of Services Catherine McConnell insisted that Mayo can capitalise on having greater connectivity. “The more robust our international connectivity is the better the opportunity is for a county like Mayo to capitalise on the opportunities around data and other industries we have yet to see emerging.”