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Fibre optics for tomorrow's innovations

Green advisor

Fibre optics pave the way for tomorrow’s innovations

It’s all about communicating at the speed of light – and opening up unlimited opportunities for services, business models and ways of working in today’s and tomorrow’s society. Fibre optics are the digital infrastructure of the future.

Sweden’s new IT infrastructure

Huge investments are being made in Sweden to expand the nation’s IT infrastructure. Copper wires installed over the past 20 years or so are being replaced by optical fibres, the digital infrastructure of the future.

Optical fibres transmit signals at the speed of light without any deterioration in the quality of the information, no matter how far it travels. Today fibre is the quickest available way of transmitting large amounts of data.

Sweden’s broadband target

Extending the fibre optic network is high on the political and commercial agenda in Sweden. The government’s ambitious broadband target is for 90 percent of the population to have access to high-speed 100 Mbps broadband by 2020. Today little more than half of Sweden’s households are able to do so.

The potential of fibre optics to improve high-speed internet connectivity is enormous, impacting on every aspect of society. According to a study by the Acreo research institute, the socio-economic benefits of investments in fibre optic infrastructure in the Stockholm region total 1.7 billion Swedish kronor. The new network has led to lower broadband charges, increased property values, created jobs and reduced the cost of data and telecommunications for the local and county authorities. “Sweden is one of the countries with the highest broadband coverage. This creates some excellent competitive advantages. But it’s important, too, to have an open and competitively neutral network, where all service providers enjoy the same conditions,” says Björn Rosengren, who was a strong advocate of broadband as Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise 1998–2002. 

Collaboration creates new opportunities

Recent developments in technology and high-speed internet connections have led to new ways of consuming products and services. The Internet of Things means that more and more devices are becoming interlinked. Smart watches, driverless cars and white goods that you can control via apps are just some of the smart devices developed in recent years. Experts at Ericsson predict that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide. These new technical innovations have been developed through collaboration between entrepreneurs, the public sector and university researchers in a context where technology is looked at in broader business terms and its value assessed from a social perspective.

Healthcare is one area where new technical innovations have proved to be particularly effective. The digitalisation of the health sector (for example through telemedicine techniques that enable operations to be performed via video link) has been accelerating for a number of years. However, only now are ground-breaking innovations starting to have a positive impact on large numbers of patients.

One example is Kry, Sweden’s first digital health centre that opened in March 2015. The concept is simple: patients identify themselves electronically on the Kry homepage, describe their ailments in writing and can choose to wait in the online waiting room or book an appointment with a doctor. Consultations are then conducted in the form of a desktop video-conference. Patients don’t need to travel to the health centre or spend time among other unwell people in the waiting room.

 Today almost 15 million visits a year are made to doctors in primary healthcare, a state of affairs that the founders of Kry felt could be changed for the better.

“We saw a need to make medical expertise more readily available and more easily accessible while finding alternatives to traditional visits to the doctor. I estimate that five years from now a fifth of all primary healthcare consultations will be conducted online,” says Josefin Landgård, Managing Director and one of the founders of Kry.

Kry has recently launched an app that enables patients to meet registered doctors using their smartphone. “The app is a good alternative. Thanks to good internet capacity patients can access the service wherever they are,” Josefin explains.

Supporting IP-Only’s investments

ÅF is playing a part in all of the fibre network investments currently being undertaken by major service providers in Sweden. One of these is IP-Only, which owns, operates and develops optical fibre infrastructure in Sweden and works closely with local fibre alliances and municipalities to facilitate access to an open, neutral network where all service providers enjoy the same conditions.

ÅF contributes to the design and planning of all aspects of the network expansion programme, from project engineering and site supervision to financial documentation and inspections. In practice this means that ÅF consultants design the network architecture, ascertain that all the necessary permits are in order and assume full responsibility for the planning and execution of the project.

Fibre to four homes an hour

On behalf of IP-Only ÅF has documented and led projects to connect residential properties in Uppsala to the fibre network and project-engineered and supervised network expansions in the province of Värmland. Together these projects connect an average of four Swedish homes to fibre networks every hour, making an important contribution towards achieving Sweden’s national broadband target. “The expansion of the fibre network means good connectivity for people in rural areas and ensures that small businesses can be established and thrive even outside major urban areas,” says Camilla Buzaglo, Director of Communications at IP-Only.

As society becomes increasingly digitalised it is important that everyone, no matter where they live in Sweden, has the same opportunities to access information and services online.

National broadband target

“ÅF is playing a key role in nationwide efforts to meet Sweden’s broadband target,” says ÅF Section Manager Gabriel Edelbrock. He is convinced that efforts to expand the fibre optic network will soon be prioritised. “With just five years to go, all Sweden’s local authorities urgently need to get involved,” he says. “Fibre optics are key to future developments in digital innovation, and the government’s broadband target requires concerted action from local councils, regional authorities and commercial interests.”


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