US$300m transatlantic fibre network to arrive on Ireland’s west coast

2 Dec 2011

Emerald Express CEO Ray Sembler presents Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, with a section of the transatlantic fibre cable

A major transatlantic fibre optic network will come ashore at Belmullet in Mayo in early 2013 that will link data centres in Ireland and Iceland with the financial capitals of Europe with New York.

The subsea network is being built by Emerald Networks, which is raising US$300m to finance the project. The CEO of Emerald Networks Inc, Ray Sembler, told that a second phase after 2013 is being planned that could connect the network with countries in Southern Europe.

The project, which has the potential to create hundreds of jobs in the build phase, could go on to help generate thousands of jobs in next-generation finance and digital media companies in the West of Ireland due to it being the last footfall between Europe and the US.

Iceland enters the equation because, like Ireland, it is also a preferred location for data centres in terms of geography and cooling.

The subsea network will be built by Subcom and PiPiper Infrastructure will handle the national dark fibre rollout in Ireland.

Sembler said that, at present, marine surveys are being carried out on both sides of the Atlantic and construction will begin in 2012.

Making the Emerald Express operational

The plan, he said, is to have the group’s Emerald Express transatlantic network operational by spring 2013. With the speed and capacity of computing doubling every 18 months, the demand for transatlantic data capacity is expected to increase ninefold between 2010 and 2017.

Sembler said the network will be able to carry 60 terabytes of data. “Our plan is to start manufacturing and building the cable early in the new year and load the boats around May and June. The boats will set off from both sides of the Atlantic and meet in the middle. We intend to put the minimum number of splices possible on the cable but we will have amplifiers every 80 kilometres.

“Our plan is to connect the data centres in Iceland and the data centres in Ireland with the data centres of Europe. A significant number of Fortune 100 companies are investigating establishing data centres in Iceland to take advantage of energy supply and cooling,” Sembler said.

He explained that a contract to purchase the cable system from Subcom has been signed.

The project, which has the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, is being supported by the Wellcome Trust and global investment bank Jeffries & Company will help to complete the US$300m fundraising.

The group is in discussions with tier 1 and tier 2 carriers, financial institutions, enterprise data centre operators and content providers whose need for low-latency data transmission is growing.

The new data empires

Eamonn Wallace, chairman of IrelandOffline, commented: “This is a great day for Ireland as this fibre cable will bring much-needed international transatlantic traffic to Ireland. The cable will be a low-latency cable and follows the ‘Great Circle route’, which is the shortest transatlantic route by far. This is the optimal route across the Atlantic and cables should follow this route in future.

“Low latency is a key driver in international e-commerce and financial trading between major financial centres. This shows the importance of the west coast of Ireland as a landing point for transatlantic fibre transit. We in IrelandOffline look forward to more fibres making landfall in this region and to the region becoming a hotspot for international connectivity.”

A report by communications technology giant Cisco earlier this week reported that cloud computing traffic globally is expected to grow 12-fold from 130 exabytes to reach a total of 1.6 zettabytes annually by 2015, a 66pc compound annual growth rate, according to the inaugural Cisco Global Cloud Index.

Cloud is the fastest-growing component of data-centre traffic, which itself will grow fourfold at a 33pc CAGR to reach 4.8 zettabytes annually by 2015.

One zettabyte is equal to a sextillion bytes or a trillion gigabytes – 1.6 zettabytes is approximately equivalent to: 22trn hours of streaming music, 5trn hours of business web conferencing with a webcam or 1.6trn hours of online high-definition (HD) video streaming.

This is only beginning.

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