From the air, Stockholm looks complex: a series of interconnected islands linked by bridges and ferries. In reality, it is an easy and pleasant city to navigate (the occasional traffic jam notwithstanding), and that connectivity goes even further than a bird’s eye view can appreciate.
A dark jewel
Stockholm’s information and communications technology infrastructure is perhaps one of the less obvious jewels in the Swedish capital’s crown. But in fact it possesses the world’s largest open, operator-neutral 'dark' (not yet used) optical fibre network, and in doing so provides businesses with some of the world’s fastest broadband connections, while reducing the disruptive city works usually entailed by having competing providers of cable.
The population of the city’s central district is about 800,000, with 2 million inhabitants in the greater Stockholm region. By 2030 those figures are predicted to be closer to 1 million and 3.2 million, respectively. The service sector is predominant here – and, by some reckonings, Stockholm boasts the highest concentration of knowledge-intensive jobs in Europe.
Stockholm’s civic leaders have decided that this profile demanded a communications platform that would allow the city to play to its strengths. The creation of fibre-provider Stokab (wholly owned by the City of Stockholm) is a major plank in the city’s vision of an “information society for all its inhabitants” through the development of a fibre-optic network extending throughout the greater Stockholm region.
Founded in 1994, Stokab has a turnover of just short of €60m, employs 100 people and works with about 100 providers of services to end-users.
Currently, there is 100% broadband coverage in Stockholm, both wired and mobile, city leaders boast, and 70% of companies have access to fibre-optic capabilities, while 95,000 households are connected through 'Fibre To The Home', which allows speeds of up to one gigabyte per second. This is scheduled to be scaled up to 400,000 households by 2012. Already the installed network consists of about 1.2 million kilometres of fibre and 5000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable. Under Stokab’s business model, operators lease fibre-optic connections, and the network is open to everybody on equal terms, with prices fixed in the inner-city area.
Fibre-optic cable is not only expensive to install, but has massive potential for civic disruption during installation – especially if numerous, competing players are involved. Typically, up to 60% of the expense of it is associated not with creating physical infrastructure, but with legal and licensing costs. Stokab – and its sponsor, the City of Stockholm – regards its model as being a step up; among other advantages, there is a lower threshold for access by new companies, the network is secure, disruption is reduced and the delivery time for new customers is down to between two and eight weeks. It also means that end-users have straightforward access to some of the highest broadband speeds in the world.
As Stokab business development manager Anders Broberg tells fDi: “Ultimately, this allows customers to focus on their core business, and to leave connectivity to us.”