300Mbps education network to benefit businesses in the West

6 Oct 2008

High-speed telecoms services to businesses in rural areas equal to those in urban areas is the unexpected dividend following the Higher Education Authority’s (HEA) internet service provider HEAnet contracting wireless broadband specialist AirSpeed Telecom to deploy a high-speed data service of up to 300Mbps to the Galway, Mayo and Donegal areas.

The move will facilitate new technologies on-campus such as high-definition videoconferencing at the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) campuses, as well as e-learning and other IT services.

The three-year contract was awarded to AirSpeed following a competitive tender process, and is part of HEAnet’s National Backbone Extension (NBE) programme.

The move also means that HEAnet clients such as NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) will have high-capacity interconnections to their off-campus locations in areas such as Carraroe, Inverin, Carna, Castlebar and Letterfrack.

As well as extending the various campuses and high-definition videoconferencing to large tracts of the Gaeltacht region, the new network will facilitate applications such as voice, data and video streaming in the Connemara region, where the option for high-speed telecoms services has been very limited to date.

“The challenge for HEAnet was to find a solution that would provide reliant and high-capacity interconnections between the remote sites and the HEAnet network, to integrate the connections with NUI Galway’s campus network and IT support service and to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner,” explained Kieran Loftus, director of NUI Galway’s Computer Services.

“Funding was provided by the HEA for the NBE programme, and by Údarás na Gaeltachta for installation of the Gaeltacht circuits. A detailed public procurement exercise seeking circuits for HEAnet clients all over the country was carried out, with the Gaeltacht sites forming one of several lots. The evaluation for these sites yielded a clear winner on price and performance – AirSpeed.”

All links deployed can support up to 300Mbps of capacity, and the service will also be made available to businesses operating in the region.

The project required a presence on six strategic high sites across Galway, namely, RTÉ Creggs, Tully Beg, Seanfeastin, Tonabrocky, Carron and Lahinch, which is strategic for areas such as Inverin and Spiddal. These sites are the highest points overlooking the Galway Gaeltacht and together form a backbone which connects back to Galway and onto the internet via AirSpeed’s fibre link to Dublin.

“Our licensed radio network is ideally suited to solving the geographic and cost challenges of providing high bandwidth telecommunications services in the region,” said AirSpeed’s managing director, Liam O’Kelly.

“The new infrastructure will provide businesses with telecom services equal to those available in urban areas,” he said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years