This year, it will be ninety year since Telenor (at that time Telegrafvæsenet) established the first telephone link between Spitsbergen and the Norwegian mainland.
With the exception of a few years during the second world war, Telenor has been present on Svalbard since 1911. This weekend, Telenor, one of Svalbard’s pioneers, will be celebrating its continued active role in the island group through several arrangements.
On May 3, 1911, the Norwegian parliament agreed that a radio telegraph station was to be built on Svalbard. The station was named Spitsbergen Radio and originally built at Green Harbour (now Grønfjorden). It was later moved to Finneset just south of Barentsburg. The station was established five years before Svalbard’s first coal mine opened.
The first telephone connection linking Svalbard to the mainland based on the technology of the time was made on November 22, 1911. A corresponding station was built on the mainland. In 1930, the station that had been named Svalbard Radio in 1925 was moved to Longyearbyen.
In 1933, Isfjord Radio was established at Kapp Linne. The station was established to act as an intermediary for traffic between Svalbard Radio and ships in the waters around Svalbard.
During the second world war, Isfjord Radio was decommissioned and destroyed by German occupying forces, but the station was rebuilt and set back into operation in 1946.
Most of Isfjord Radio’s operations were moved to Longyearbyen when the airport was opened in 1975. Today, Svalbard Radio operates from the airport’s control tower, handling communication for both sea and air traffic.
After several years of research and testing, Telenor’s first satellite station was set into operation at Isfjord Radio in 1979. Two years later, Svalbard was connected to international fixed-line networks via satellite transmission to the mainland. Telenor also took over the local fixed-line network from the Store Norske Spitsbergen coal company in 1981.
Direct transmission of NRK’s TV programmes to Longyearbyen was established in 1984, to Svea in 1986 and to new Ã lesund in 1987.
Barentsburg and the Pyramid were connected to the Norwegian fixed-line network in 1989.
In 1990, the analogue central exchange in Longyearbyen was replaced by a new, more modern digital exchange. Svalbard was among the first areas in Norway to go digital.
Longyearbyen and Svea received mobile (GSM) coverage in 1996 and 1999 respectively.
Telenor on Svalbard today
Telenor today has two manned operations on the island of Svalbard – Telenor Network Services, which is responsible for the coastal radio service, and Telenor Svalbard AS, which is responsible for the development and operation of fixed-line and customer services, and the operation of Telenor’s satellite stations. In total, Telenor has 20 employees on Svalbard.
Ninetieth anniversary celebrations
In connection with its ninetieth anniversary of its operations on Svalbard, Telenor will be hosting a series of events for the public between September 6 – 9.