Svalbard is fibre-optics test bed

Longyearbyen now has one of the world’s most advanced digital service offerings, after Telenor shifted the entire infrastructure over to either mobile or fibre-optic technology. Longyearbyen is now a laboratory for the future of fibre-based services.

Written: Mar 2014

Reading Time: 2 minutes

50 Megabits per second has become the norm in an ordinary home in Longyearbyen after Telenor Svalbard re-laid its entire infrastructure using fibre-optic cables.

“Longyearbyen is quite simply one of the world’s most advanced societies in miniature,” says Frode Støldal, CTO of Telenor Norway.

Longyearbyen is a perfect pilot project for Telenor because it is a small and compact town, has all public services available and is home to around 100 businesses of varying sizes. This means that Telenor can test all types of services.

“We are in the middle of an exciting and demanding technological shift that means that we are gradually moving from traditional infrastructure to high speed fibre-based technology. For us, the complete relaying of cables in Longyearbyen is an important milestone that provides us with valuable experience that we can take back to the mainland in the years to come,” says Støldal.

Fibre to cabins without running water

There are 2,100 permanent residents in Longyearbyen, and some retreat from the “hustle and bustle” of the town to the cabin area located a few minutes drive outside of the town centre. Every year about 65,000 tourists visit this most northerly settlement at 78 degrees north. So for locals who want to retreat, the fibre connection is a big plus.

“I knew that there were fibre optic cables nearby and we were told that if we managed to get 12-15 cabin owners interested then Telenor would consider it. You can imagine what a surprise it was to Telenor when I came back with some 40 cabin owners who were interested,” says cabin owner Svein Nordahl, who enjoys the best technology has to offer in his cabin, including a gigantic flight simulator.

Fire, emergency and payments

An important aspect of the work in Longyearbyen has been to ensure that services such as direct alerts to the fire brigade, alarms in lifts, emergency numbers and payment terminals have been adapted to the new fibre-based technology, or the mobile network, which is also extremely good in Longyearbyen.

“There are lots of services that have to be adapted, but our experience from Longyearbyen is that the work was easier than we first thought. We have also seen a significant decrease in customer reported errors,” says Støldal.
The work has been carried out in stages and all houses and apartments received a fibre connection in 2010. Bjørndalen and Vestpynten cabin areas were connected to the fibre network in 2012. All businesses were connected to fibre-based services during 2013.  Between 2009 and today, Telenor has invested NOK 12.1 million on the project.

“For residential customers, we supply Internet, IPTV and IP telephony, and we have business customers with speeds up to 100 Megabit per second on their Internet connections,” says Harald Fagermoen, Head of Telenor Svalbard.

Longyearbyen also has excellent mobile coverage, with 3G in Longyearbyen, Svea, and Barentsburg, as well as 4G/LTE in the town centre.

“If you are interested in having the best of everything in terms of mobile and broadband technology, just come to Longyearbyen,” says Fagermoen.