Ireland in danger of being cut off

31 Jul 2007

A major failure or a catastrophic event in the UK could have dire implications for Ireland and its growing community of e-commerce and other knowledge industries, an expert said yesterday.

Ireland has been warned that it must expand its international data connectivity and be less reliant on the UK in order to ensure security of supply for the next generation of knowledge-intensive industries.

Strategically independent, diverse international telecommunications connectivity is extremely important to the social and economic fabric of society, PA Consulting said yesterday. Without international connectivity a nation is unable to effectively partake in international commerce or the global society.

“The impact that electronic communications is having on the nation’s economy and society is immense,” said Kevin Gleeson of PA Consulting. “It has enabled Ireland to position itself as an efficient and effective cog in the global financial and technological services sectors among others.

“One of the most important enabling factors to this developmental era is the provision of high-speed, high-bandwidth telecommunications connectivity to the island.”

However, Gleeson warned that the vast majority of Ireland’s e-commerce, mobile and fixed-line communications traverse the submarine telecoms systems that connect the country with the UK.

“All save one of Ireland’s international submarine cables connect to the UK,” added Gleeson. “We need to be able to confirm security of supply of these communications to inward investors and indeed the indigenous business community. We also need diversity of supply to guard against unforeseen events which can cause outages.”

Gleeson pointed to events such as undersea geological disturbances, accidents at sea involving commercial shipping or submarines and the risk of terrorism as compelling reasons for putting in place alternative connections to countries other than the UK.

He said developing alternative paths and reducing our dependence on the UK for international communications would reduce the risk for the Irish economy in the event of major failure or catastrophic events in the UK.

He recommended Ireland construct a direct link to mainland Europe by 2010.

“This would reduce our dependence on the UK as well as reducing our dependence on the North American links to act as a backup, and strategically position the island as a close, off-shore option to mainland Europe,” Gleeson said.

He added that such a move would also ensure that replacement international connectivity is in place before the existing cabling’s natural life cycle has ended.

By John Kennedy