Northern Ireland is to benefit from faster and cheaper broadband access thanks to a €30m (£27.5m) project which will provide a link-up with a transatlantic undersea cable.
The contract for the laying of a new 22-mile long undersea link from the existing cable to the coastline near Portrush has been awarded to an American-owned company, Hibernia Atlantic UK.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, who today confirmed the awarding of the contract to Hibernia, said the link-up would “greatly improve” competition in the international telecoms market. Project Kelvin will involve the construction of a new cable to the Hibernia North transatlantic cable, and the establishment of connections to the existing telecoms infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
After coming ashore in the Portrush area, the new cable will feed into the existing telecoms infrastructure at a number of locations including Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Coleraine, Londonderry, Omagh, Portadown and Strabane in Northern Ireland. In the Republic, the project will provide Letterkenny, Monaghan, Castleblaney, Drogheda and Dundalk with direct international connectivity.
The Department of Enterprise (DETI) said that Hibernia Atlantic was committed to completing construction of the new infrastructure no later than March 2010 and plans to have it operating it until December 2018.
DETI said the new direct access will be available to customers on both sides of the border, and it will deliver direct links with the USA as well as improved communication connections to Europe. Mrs Foster said the contract had been awarded following a competitive tendering process.
She said the project would, for the first time, provide Northern Ireland with a direct telecommunications link to North America. The Minister added: “Northern Ireland businesses are competing more than ever for business in global markets.
“This project will deliver the kind of international telecommunications companies located in London, Amsterdam, Dublin and New York already depend on.
“It will provide opportunities for Northern Ireland companies selling goods and services overseas and also improve our attractiveness to knowledge-based inward investment. The current difficult economic situation makes it even more important that Northern Ireland businesses target overseas markets.”
The project is co-financed under the European Union’s Interreg programme by DETI in partnership with the Department of Communication and Energy in the Republic.
Irish Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said it would mean communications between Ireland and North America being directly routed without having to resort to external networks, such as through London.
He said: “Project Kelvin will provide faster broadband at lower costs. This alone will assist Ireland and Northern Ireland in attracting foreign investment.”