100Mbps broadband lights up Aran Island fashion powerhouse

2 Oct 2018

© Nora Doa/Stock.adobe.com

Global clothing business on Inis Meáin feared it would be left behind or forgotten by the National Broadband Plan.

In an extreme case of market dynamics showing up where even Government intervention policy has so far failed to materialise, a thriving global business on one of the three Aran Islands has finally been connected to the 21st century. Telecoms firm Viatel found a way of connecting a local business with a global customer base to 100Mbps broadband.

Inis Meáin Knitting Co on the island of Inis Meáin, the centre island between Inis Mór and Inis Oírr, is a global brand.

‘Our team thrive on connecting business in perceived difficult-to-reach locations’

Future Human

The company was established in 1976 by Tarlach de Blácam and Áine Ní Chonghaile to provide work for islanders and stem emigration. Generations-old knitting skills gradually grew to accommodate software programming and digital skills to make complex weaves for goods that would be stocked alongside premium designer brands on New York’s Fifth Avenue and be seen in designer boutiques in Milan, Paris and Tokyo.

A good yarn about the importance of connectivity

But despite the global acclaim, according to De Blácam, the broadband revolution never arrived on the island.

“We set up a small industry in the 1970s to provide employment, graduated to digitally controlled machines in the mid-1980s and taught young, skilled people to write software programs for designs.

“We were waiting 10 years for the National Broadband Plan to provide something; we have nothing, just the same thing: a lousy telephone line. I still don’t see that we are ever going to have a cable or a main line to this island.”

Tech specialists from Dublin-headquartered telecoms company Viatel realised they could use dish technology to create a 100Mbps connection for Inis Meáin Knitting Co, and the connection was up and running in six weeks, giving a global business a global connection to sell more goods.

Running a clothing business on a remote island does not come without challenges, and one of the main difficulties highlighted by De Blácam was the lack of broadband infrastructure.

“We have waited 10 years for the National Broadband Plan and we cannot wait any longer. After searching the market, we finally engaged with Viatel and they deployed 100Mbps broadband in weeks, not years. We are now in a position to realise our digital ambitions.”

Viatal director of sales and marketing, Damien McCann, said the connectivity will finally enable the Aran Island business to reach its full potential.

“The slow roll-out of the National Broadband Plan is hindering hundreds of business in rural Ireland like the knitting company, and our team thrive on connecting business in perceived difficult-to-reach locations.”

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