Unanswered Questions About Aquind’s Fibre-optic Communications Network

By looking at sources in the public domain, we have pieced together the story of the high capacity fibre-optic communications network that Aquind, despite its recent denials, is still planning to install alongside the HVDC interconnector cables from France.

While Aquind has removed the wording relating to the commercial use of the surplus capacity of these fibre-optic cables in its plan, the vast majority of the hardware which would be required (the high-capacity fibre-optic cables themselves, the Optical Relay Stations at Fort Cumberland and the telecoms equipment at the termination station at Lovedean) all still remain in its application to be activated at a later date. Both Portsmouth and Winchester City Council’s have flagged this to the SofS on numerous occasions, with PCC even referring to the commercial use of the fibre-optic cables as the “tail that wags the dog” in Aquind’s plans. Put simply, Aquind appears to be using the planning process for one project (an interconnector) to subvert the planning process for another (a commercial data network) right under our noses – and blatantly denying it.

Aquind has publically stated that it would not continue with the project while it excludes the commercial use of the communications hardware, saying in June 2023 that it “is not amenable to provisions being included in the DCO which prevent any future use of the fibre optic cables to be installed for commercial telecommunications where otherwise authorised for that use in the future“. So will the entire network will be laid regardless of the Secretary of State’s wishes? Does this not completely contradict Aquind’s statements (for example on BBC South Today) that the network had been taken out, when it is very much still in, the plans?

Aquind’s data network would be on a huge scale, with a greater capacity in comparison even to the last two dedicated fibre-optic communications networks laid under the Channel (by Crosslake and Colt Telecom). We can only speculate as to the nature of the MoD’s recent intervention into the planning process for the interconnector, but could the fact that Aquind’s network is planned to be laid at the home of the Royal Navy and near communications installations such as on Portsdown Hill be a factor? Or is the Soviet origin of Aquind’s owners Mr Temerko and Mr Fedotov relevant? They both now hold British citizenship, but do they have our best interests at heart?

You can read our letter to the Planning Inspectorate for the attention of Clare Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero which is highly detailed and packed with references HERE.


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