For an Included Swedish Countryside with Internet for Everyone
"I can no longer call home," exclaimed the former Minister for Enterprise in the IT country Sweden. This is characteristic of the rural areas in Sweden, where people and businesses are forced to chose: move to a more populated area with access to mobile coverage or live in digital exclusion.
There are many places in Sweden that don't have any coverage. You can't make phone calls, or use the internet. For residents in these places, essential services - such as banking, ordering medicines and contacting the outside world - are out of reach.
It is against this background that the project #fulltäckning started in November 2016. Its actors are working to avoid digital exclusion by increasing the mobile coverage in rural areas. Through better coverage, individuals, companies and other industries can not only benefit from the digitalization, but also contribute to a positive development for both the environment and society.
People should be able to live and work throughout the country. Therefore, #fulltäckning takes its starting point in rural areas with the goal of spreading coverage further out. The long-term goal is to create attractive and competitive areas in rural areas where there is access to mobile coverage.
The vision is for new and innovative strategies to drive operators to rural development with the help of local and public interests.
#Fulltäckning Will Solve Three Challenges:
Swedish rural areas should not be left in digital exclusion, but should have access to 100Mbit/s. This can be achieved at a low cost with the right technology.
Inadequate coverage is a security risk. Residents and tourists alike should have mobile coverage everywhere in the country.
Tourism, agriculture, forestry, power/electricity and other industries should not be economically hampered as a result of lack of coverage.
The technical solutions in #fulltäckning consist of two parts: rural hotspots and umbrella cells.
In this project we work to establish so-called "rural hotspots"; oases of digital connectivity surrounding farms, touristic venues, rural industries, and other remote places of importance. These represent a bottom-up approach, allowing individuals and businesses to add local connectivity to the mobile networks.
We are also developing an "umbrella cell" concept. This consists of "high-power, high-tower" cellular base stations mounted in high, existing TV-towers that cover over 100 times larger land areas than today's base stations. Approximately 50 of these towers would be enough to cover Sweden. This is a top-down approach where operators or states can add coverage and capacity to mobile networks.
Prioritizing the Countryside
The goal of #fulltäckning is to act as a catalyst and starting point for something bigger; a new way of thinking, where the countryside is included in the digitalization of the Swedish society. The economic value created in Swedish rural areas is a considerable part of Sweden's GDP.
Thus, #fulltäckning will act as catalyst and collaboration platform for efforts outside the project. The project addresses the economic, social and cultural values that come from a healthy countryside.
Large parts of the world are rural, and the challenges of inadequate coverage are global. The market often excludes the countryside, focusing instead on urban areas. #Fulltäckning wants to counteract this by putting rural areas front and center.
The work will be conducted in four work streams:
- Needs Analysis and Current Situation Description: Needs analysis, development of indicators and work to connect rural areas.
- Economics, Models and Value Chains: Analysis of engineering-economic areas, operator models and other aspects.
- Project Demonstration: Showcasing project feasibility and evaluate it afterwards.
- Information Dissemination and Advocacy: Continuous work with communication and influence.
The challenges will be met with a project consortium that extends across several industries, sectors and community interests, as well as an implementation plan that extends for as long as ten years.
This project will work with three flows and stimulate investments created by:
- The Market - Which today constitutes the norm for how networks are built. This is a functioning way to access the internet in urban areas but one that rarely reaches rural areas.
- The Public Sector - Which, through national subsidies, has served as an addition to market investment when networks have been expanded. Not used for mobile networks.
- The End User - Who previously has contributed to infrastructure in the construction of fiber networks, by for example paying connection fees. The model is not developed for mobile networks.
Vinton G. Cerf, widely known as one of the 'Fathers of the Internet', is vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google and contributes to global policy development and continued spread of the Internet.
Linnéa Claeson is a Swedish handball player, social commentator and activist who is passionate about issues of equality and democracy.