Friday 21 June 2019

Locals oppose transatlantic cable plan

Loughshinny Beach. Photo: Janine Jones, Flickr
Loughshinny Beach. Photo: Janine Jones, Flickr
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

A planed landing station in north Dublin for a major new transatlantic fibre optic cable backed by Google and Facebook faces opposition.

Local residents have cited environmental and other concerns in relation to the planned development by ESB Telecoms at Loughshinny.

ESB Telecoms said it's been approached by Irish firm Aqua Comms to facilitate the landing site for the new data cable, which is called Havfrue.

The cable is being built by a consortium of investors that includes Aqua Comms, which is owned by Abu Dhabi's Aqua Ventures International and units of New York private equity giant Cartesian Capital. Aqua Comms is also backed by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

The new cable is also being backed by Norwegian firm Bulk Infrastructure, which develops data centres and fibre networks.

It recently signed a deal with Amazon Web Services, which will use capacity on the cable.

Aqua Comms is the operator of the new high-speed cable. The portion it owns is called America Connect-2. As part of the project, it's also building a cable across the Irish Sea called CeltixConnect-2, and a cable across the North Sea from the UK to Denmark. The ensemble of new infrastructure, including Havfrue, is known as the North Atlantic Loop.

The Havfrue cable is expected to be operational by the end of the year. No price for the project has been revealed, but it's certain to run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

One of the landing points for the cable is at Killala in Co Mayo, where there was opposition earlier this year from local fishermen.

Residents in Loughshinny have insisted in their planning objection to Fingal County Council that the landing station and cable have "no strategic importance to the people living in this area or Fingal in general".

They have claimed that the proposed landing station fails to meet the objectives of the local area development plan.

But ESB Telecoms has insisted that the cable is strategically important.

"The new subsea cable is one of national strategic importance to the telecommunications industry in Ireland as it will enhance the country's global connectivity, which is critical to the further development of the sector over the coming decade," it told the council.

Fingal County Council has just told ESB Telecoms that it must submit more information regarding the planned development of the landing site. That includes a request for clarity on the cumulative effect of the proposed landing site and the cable itself on the environment.

ESB Telecoms said the aim of the new cable is to provide resilience to the North Atlantic and northern European telecoms networks. It said it will offer an "alternative fibre connection to the London-New York cable route that has dominated the North Atlantic fibre market to date".

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