In Norway’s far north the future of the internet is now

Fibre optic cables are delivering some of the world’s fastest internet speeds to residents of Svalbard

Svalbard, famous for its polar bears – and now fast internet

Elías Thórsson

Poky internet connections are now a thing of the past for residents of Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island group Svalbard.

In the past, the 2,100 people living in the world’s northernmost town faced the same, slow, internet realities as people in most other isolated areas.

But following an ambitious pilot project by Telenor, a Norwegian mobile and internet service provider, Longyearbyen now boasts of one of the world’s most advanced digital services.

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The project, installing fibre optic cables at a cost of 12 million kroner ($2 million), has resulted in household internet speeds of 50 megabits per second. To put that speed in perspective, the average internet connection worldwide is 18 megabits per second. Only Japan and Hong Kong post faster average speeds.

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

Telenor chose Longyearbyen as a testing ground because it is compact, and because it has about 100 businesses of varying sizes and structures, which meant the company would need to provide internet to customers with a variety of needs.

“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,” Mr Støldal says. “We’ve had to completely relay the cables in Longyearbyen and that is an important milestone which provides us with valuable experience that we can take back to the mainland in the years to come.”

In addition high speed internet, 4G mobile is available in Svalbard’s town centre. 3G is available elsewhere in the town, and in the towns of Svea, and Barentsburg.

Originally published by The Arctic Journal. Re-published here with the permission of the author.

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