One of Ireland’s most remote islands off the coast celebrates the achievement of mobile and broadband connectivity.
Residents of Cape Clear off Cork often had to travel to the other side of the island to make calls while businesses and tourists were disconnected.
Stimulated by a ham radio antenna on the island’s highest point, local residents took action and contacted a Vodafone shop in Skibbereen – even offering to erect a mast on the same spot.
In a massive engineering challenge, five cement trucks were shipped from the mainland while locals laid the foundations for the structure that is said to have revolutionized the way they live and work.
The Cape Clear Island Connectivity Project was implemented by Vantage Towers as part of its Towers For Good program – with the aim of connecting rural communities, promoting development and enabling job creation.
Mairtin O Mealoid, chairman of Comharchumann Chleire Teoranta, of the Cape Clear Co-operative, said the islanders were really suffering from the lack of cellphone signals.
“Driving to another part of the island to make a call was a way of life for some people,” he said.
“I can now make phone calls from home, which I could never do.
“There’s a certain resilience that comes from island life, but that kind of reduces our sense of isolation.
“It also allows businesses like the glamping site to offer tourists connectivity and serve parts of the mainland and Sherkin Island that were previously isolated.”
The new installation is a massive boost for the community, according to Brian McHugh, Managing Director of Vantage Towers Ireland.
“It improves cellular and data coverage not only on Cape Clear Island itself, but also on the neighboring island communities of Sherkin Island, Hare Island and Long Island,” he said.
“It will also have a positive impact on homes located in hard-to-serve areas along the coast between Baltimore and Crookhaven.”
Fishing and pleasure boat users on the waters between Crookhaven and Baltimore, as well as islanders, can now also contact the emergency services if needed.
Seamus O Drisceoil, founder and manager of Cape Clear Island Distillery, said picking up and losing coverage around the island is a way of life.
“We therefore had to adapt our business and accept that we would lose opportunities if we lost calls,” he said.
“I now have cell phone signal in my house for the first time in 25 years – and I get 5G signal at home and at work.”
The sustainable community partnership resulted in the Cape Clear Islanders reusing an existing structure with existing services and building the base of the tower at Quarantine Hill using concrete from Skibbereen.
Islanders also helped dismantle a former wind turbine tower on the site to be recycled.
The tower, which is live with Vodafone signal but open to all service providers, was manufactured in Ireland by Carlow firm Delmec, which coordinated the complex transport logistics.
Sheila Kavanagh, Network Director at Vodafone Ireland, highlighted the company’s commitment to improving network infrastructure in Ireland’s most rural areas, so that all communities can benefit from the digital society.
“From the first contact with the islanders, everyone supported the proposals to develop this unique telecommunications infrastructure,” she said.