Business and civic leaders met yesterday (October 11) on Blackpool’s shoreline to witness a pioneering new initiative that will give the resort a huge competitive advantage as it seeks to attract more cutting-edge, tech-based industries to the North West coast.
The much-anticipated connection to a subsea, fibre optic, Irish Sea cable network will have the capability to deliver some of the world’s fastest, most resilient internet speeds, securing Blackpool’s status as a key international route linking the UK to the rest of the world.
Just after 3pm, the crew of a ‘rear end barge’ landed a subsea fibre optical cable onto the beach, to connect it to an existing ducting network laid under the sand dunes and up to a dedicated cable landing station at Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.
The North Atlantic Loop is made up of several undersea fibre cables connecting the UK to the US and Northern Europe.
The cable landing in Blackpool is known as CeltixConnect-2, this is a next generation, subsea fibre cable system that is part of the Aqua Comms network delivering a diverse, high capacity network connection to the USA and Northern Europe.
With Blackpool as a strategic landing in this global undersea communications system, it not only brings the best available internet capabilities to the Fylde Coast, but also future proofs the North and the rest of mainland UK.
This network is being built by Aqua Comms, owner and operator of their North Atlantic Loop fibres, an Irish company and worldwide specialist in the building and operations of submarine cable systems.
The multimillion-pound investment to connect Blackpool to the network has the potential to offer great value to the North of England and means that the town can now offer faster transatlantic switching speeds to New York than via traditional routes like London, less than 0.64 seconds, on a network route that has the capability to carry more than one third of the world’s internet traffic.
The new fibre optic cable will support the needs of the Pan-Atlantic hyperscale providers that underpin today’s international cloud industry for global carriers, cloud-based networks, internet service providers, data centres, IT companies and the global media.
Andy Hudson, chief network officer at Aqua Comms, said: “The ongoing pandemic has shown us just how much the world relies on the internet in our daily lives, both at home and at work.
“As our reliance on technology grows greater, the world of telecoms continues to change at a rapid pace, internet connectivity needs to be secure, yet agile, flexible and resilient and nowhere is this more critical than in the transatlantic market, one of the busiest oceanic data routes in the world, linking North America to Northern Europe.
“This new fibre connection into Blackpool is faster than many of the existing undersea UK cables which were laid around 15-20 years ago and which are now coming towards the end of their life for operational or commercial reasons.
“The combination of the shortest, direct route to the USA, and the newest technological assets and engineering capabilities available on the market, makes this a significant 30+ year investment which could benefit Blackpool.”
Leader of Blackpool Council, Cllr Lynn Williams, said: “It’s been incredible to see first-hand the physical infrastructure involved, and to learn about the journey this unassuming cable takes to connect us digitally with friends and family around the world.
“Being connected to the North Atlantic Loop opens up so many business possibilities for a digital Blackpool, attracting all sorts of opportunities from a wide range of sectors such as contactless retailing, international education sharing, financial trading and online gaming to name just a few.
“Blackpool’s new connectivity puts it at a major advantage compared to other UK locations and is testament to the town’s entrepreneurial spirit as it continues to build on its historic association with cutting-edge technology.”
He added: “Dubbed the new Porthcurno – a beach just a few miles from Land’s End and a key site in global undersea communications – of the North, not only because local businesses can reap the benefits through their internet service providers, but Blackpool’s digital advancement can and will, play an important role in COVID recovery strategies and the Government’s Levelling Up Agenda, spreading economic growth and development across the North, boosting the economy and creating skilled jobs for the future.”