Mobile Broadband Access in Norrbotten

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Mobile Broadband Access in Norrbotten

Visionärt kunskapsunderlag till den

regional digitala agendan.


Titel Mobile Broadband Access in Norrbotten.

Visionärt kunskapsunderlag till den regionala digitala agendan.

Författare: Jaap van de Beek, Luleå University of Technology Omslagsfoto: Mostphotos, Timur Arbaev

Kontaktperson: Johanna Lindberg

Länsstyrelsen i Norrbottens län, 971 86 Luleå.

Telefon: 010-225 50 00 fax: 0920-22 84 11, E-post:


ISSN: 0283-9636


Titel Mobile Broadband Access in Norrbotten.

Visionärt kunskapsunderlag till den regionala digitala agendan.

Författare: Jaap van de Beek, Luleå University of Technology Omslagsfoto: Mostphotos, Timur Arbaev

Kontaktperson: Johanna Lindberg

Länsstyrelsen i Norrbottens län, 971 86 Luleå.

Telefon: 010-225 50 00 fax: 0920-22 84 11, E-post:


ISSN: 0283-9636


Denna rapport om tillgången till mobilt bredband i Norrbotten är skriven på uppdrag av Länsstyrelsen som ett visionärt kunskapsunderlag till ”Digitala Agendan i Norrbottens Län” som kommer ut under hösten 2016. Syftet med den digitala agendan är att lyfta fram viktiga frågor och fastslå en handlingsplan kopplade till IKT och Norrbotten.

Johanna Lindberg



A background chapter in preparation of Norrbotten's Regional Digital Agenda 2016

Mobile Broadband Access in Norrbotten

Jaap van de Beek – Luleå University of Technology

August 2016


In a revision of the digital agenda for Norrbotten


the topic of broadband Internet access and in particular the mobile broadband access must find a prominent place. Like water, electricity and sewage systems, (mobile) broadband Internet access, too, is rapidly become a basic human need and comes with associated structural transformations for society and policy makers. The region must be well-prepared for such changes. This chapter sketches the state of the Internet access along with forecasts of its development in the coming decade. How does the development in Norrbotten relate to the national and global development? What can we expect and how could we act upon this forecast, steering the development towards what is best for the region?

Mobile broadband access can and should not be addressed independent and separated from fixed broadband access questions: both are different aspects of the same idea. Norrbotten's citizens need to be able to access the Internet, in their homes, at their work, and also in other places, while commuting, travelling, in their leisure time, or when otherwise on the move.

This report therefore starts with an outline of the targets that are currently being pursued by the national government and the European Commission and which to some extend relate to fixed Internet access. Based on an analysis of these targets the report argues that there is no time for complacency and that important pro-active actions are needed to be taken by regional stakeholders in Norrbotten. It makes suggestions for such actions.


The European Commission establishes


that "the future economy will be a network-based knowledge economy with the internet at its centre. Europe needs widely available and competitively-priced fast and ultra-fast Internet access. The Europe 2020 Strategy has underlined the importance of broadband deployment to promote social inclusion and competitiveness in the EU." In light of this the EU has formulated the objective to seek to ensure that, by 2020, (i) all Europeans have access to internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and (ii) 50% or more of European households subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps.

Meanwhile the national government in Sweden in its "Broadband Strategy for Sweden" states the goal that


90% of the households and companies have access to internet speeds of above 100 Mbps. Table 1 summarizes these targets and goals.

The European goals are not specific as to where the citizens should have access but it is generally interpreted as the access to the internet in at least homes and at work. In this respect, the Swedish government is more clear: the target relates to homes and workplaces – for mobile access in other places there are no specific targets.


Referensgrupp, (2014) "Digital Agenda Norrbotten".


European Commission (2010) "A Digital Agenda for Europe", COM(2010)245 final


Regeringskansliet (2009), Bredbandsstrategi för Sverige, N2009/8317/ITP.



Table 1: Political targets for access to broadband internet connection by 2020

Sweden: 100 Mbit/s for 90% of the households and companies EU: 30 Mbit/s for 100% of the citizens

100 Mbit/s for 50% of the citizens

It is immediately apparent that the present Swedish target excludes 10% of the population and hence no special efforts to include this fraction could be expected. It is reasonable to assume that the people constituting these 10% will be those living in the rural and remote regions of the country. Fortunately, European targets are more inclusive: due to these targets Swedish rurality can count on being covered by (national?) efforts to get access to 30 Mbit/s.

It appears that Sweden, with its distinctive characteristics of its population density distribution (compared to many other European countries) has particular difficulties to reach the European goals. The EU's 100% population target strikes particularly hard to EU countries as Sweden and Finland with large remote and rural areas. In 2014, 16% of the people in Swedish rural regions had access to 30 Mbit/s (compared to 85% in the urban regions). The Swedish regulator PTS has projected that by 2020, 96–99% of the households and companies (measured over the whole country) will have access to 30 Mbit/s.


In another document, PTS projects that by 2020 roughly 500 000 Swedish households will not have access to 30 Mbit/s through wireline technologies (xDSL, cable, fiber). Therefore, various forms of wireless technologies will be needed in regions where wireline technologies are absent.


Such technologies include satellite, fixed wireless access, or mobile cellular access.


The targets in the previous section are being measured over the entire EU population, alternatively over the Swedish population nationwide. How do the targets relate to Norrbotten?

3.1 Broadband connectivity in residences and workplaces

Every year PTS measures and compiles the access to broadband in residences and at workplaces in Sweden. The latest measurements were carried out in October 2015, published in March 2016, and can be accessed through Table 2 shows the measurements for the access to 30 Mbit/s (the EU target) for all 14 municipalities in Norrbotten along with the aggregate numbers for Norrbotten.

Apparently, by October 2015, 21% of the households and companies do not yet live up to the European target. It is clear and necessary to note here, that the marginal effort to connect people and companies increases significant when the penetration increase. In other words, the 21% left to connect are in principle the most difficult 21% to connect and the cost and effort per household will increase. Note also that in the remote parts of the municipalities (rightmost column in Table 2) only 26% of the households and companies had a 30 Mbit/s connection with 74% yet to be connected in the years 2016-2020. Even in the largest municipality, Luleå, 69% of the people outside the urban heart of the municipality has no access to 30 Mbit/s.


Post- och telestyrelsen (2015), Uppföljning av regeringens bredbandsstrategi 2015, PTS-ER- 2015:16.


Post- och telestyrelsen (2014), PTS åtgärder för ökad mobiltäckning, Promemoria.


Table 2: 30 Mbit/s connectivity in Norrbotten's municipalities (from

30Mbit/s households working places

area (km



access within 'tätort/småort'

outside 'tätort/småort'

Arjeplog 1 585 718 13 700 42% 57% 8%

Arvidsjaur 3 388 1 103 6 030 67% 76% 24%

Boden 14 653 3 213 4 220 87% 96% 27%

Gällivare 9 416 2 134 16 700 83% 88% 23%

Haparanda 5 106 1 072 902 64% 78% 4%

Jokkmokk 2 600 1018 19 600 69% 78% 32%

Kalix 8 399 2 313 1 830 71% 79% 22%

Kiruna 11 665 2 631 20 500 87% 91% 24%

Luleå 38 944 8 187 2 030 88% 93% 31%

Pajala 3 396 1 249 8 150 58% 80% 19%

Piteå 20 215 4 980 3 250 85% 92% 45%

Älvsbyn 4 126 1 207 1 750 48% 57% 21%

Överkalix 1 878 727 3 000 33% 47% 3%

Övertorneå 2 522 956 2 550 60% 69% 35%

Norrbotten 127 893 31 508 104 250 79% 88% 26%

Measurements associated with a 100 Mbit/s connection are shown in Table 3 in the Appendix.

Since there are no 100%-poplation targets associated with this speed national efforts can not be expected based on these numbers.

In the context of the above Internet access measurements another trend is relevant. During the years 2009-2015 Telia has been pursuing a project related to the withdrawal of copper wires and a replacement of these by wireless technologies, in areas where pursued maintenance of lines based on telephone poles were considered too expensive. The project (´teknikskiftesprojektet`) has now finished. A second phase in this development has started, a phase where remote central stations that serve end-users with both voice and DSL services, are being decommissioned. Users in these regions will now be solely depending on the reliable availability of mobile networks. This cost- and change-driven development clearly illustrates the motivation and structure that govern today's market-dominated fixed-network deployment decisions. PTS informs the public about these changes on its website (

3.2 Mobile broadband connectivity

The coverage of the 4th generation mobile cellular networks (LTE) has been improved rapidly during the recent years since its roll-out. Areal coverage in Norrbotten has now reached, and slightly exceeding that of the 3G networks. Figure 1 shows the coverage of Telia's 3G/4G network as indicated by the operator itself on its website (see The grey spots in the figure shows the regions where Telia claims to provide services with more than 2 Mbit/s and where their customers most likely can call and surf the web both indoors and outdoors. The network covers a large percentage of the households and companies in Norrbotten, the exact number not being disclosed. Coverage maps for LTE data rates of 30 Mbit/s are not shown on the map.

The map also illustrates the weakness of the cellular radio networks in the rural regions (the



large white areas on the map). A recent survey


by the Swedish regulator PTS reveals huge differences in today's perceived service quality. For mobile telephony the statement "I can call without technical interruptions" was subscribed by 76% of the urban citizens while just 60%

of rural inhabitants answered confirming. For mobile broadband, the statement "I can surf the web", was confirmed by 78% of urban and just 55% of rural citizens. In another survey by PTS


these figures are confirmed: The Stockholm region has a 99% 4G-residential coverage with a signal strength allowing both indoors and outdoors. For the Norrbotten-region residential coverage are 89% (outdoor reception) and 82% (indoor reception). These numbers are a clear indication how much weaker rural networks are being designed compared to urban networks. The associated figures for areal 4G-coverage are for the Stockholm-region 99%

(outdoor coverage) and 88% (in-car coverage) and for the Norrbotten-region 15% (outdoor coverage) and 7% (in-car coverage).

Figure 1: Telias coverage map of 3G and 4G services, more than 2 Mbit/s. Places with "very good reception" (where you most likely can call and surf the web both indoors and outdoors) are marked grey.

4 STRATEGIES IN SWEDEN 4.1 The 5G community

Improvement of mobile areal coverage is not in the first place a question of technology – it is a question of market mechanisms and business cases. Although stakeholders will give the impression that the upcoming 5G technology will provide drastical improvements this is far from obvious. The authorative 5G white paper by NGMN published in 2015


sketches many scenarios and use cases for the urban citizens of the coming decades. However, for Sweden's


Post- och Telestyrelsen, "Svenskarnas användning av telefoni och internet - PTS individundersökning 2015", rapportnr PTS-ER-2015:29, December 2015. Available from: individundersokning-2015---PTS-ER-201529-/


Post- och Telestyrelsen, "Rapport av uppdrag att samla in statistik om tillgången till mobila kommunikationsnät", rapportnr PTS-ER-2015:7, Tables in Appendix 2, May 2015, Available from: till-mobila-kommunikationsnat---PTS-ER-20157/


NGMN Alliance, “5G White Paper”, Editors: Rachid El Hattachi, Javan Erfanian, 17 February 2015. Available



population in rural regions 5G has seemingly little to offer. Rural connectivity is limited to 400-person villages (and to low ARPU regions in developing rural parts of the world), with focus on the residential patterns, and ignores nuances in regional mobility. The cost of networks in rural regions is stressed. Operators want low-cost 5G network equipment and the document presents a list of technologies and services that could be stripped off in order to reduce costs. But most worrying is that the "Coverage Everywhere" regime in the document is restricted to a "service area", those places where operators will choose to roll out their networks. Target data rates are "indicative, depending upon the 5G technology evolution to support these figures economically".

In other words, operators reserve the right NOT to deploy a mobile network in (rural) regions where a network would not be profitable.

In an answer to the operators' white paper, the recently closed European FP7 flagship project METIS


where larger vendors and operators join forces, shows the same lack of interest in rural coverage. Here, rural 5G coverage is found under Test Case 7 ("Blind Spots"), in a scenario with 100 users/vehicles per square kilometer. Disappointedly associated with a disclaimer again: "high data rate coverage is expected at every location of the service area even in remote rural areas". In other words, there will be coverage but only where the operators choose to have there service regions.

This development should be of concern to Norrbotten. While in the early years of cellular networks, PTS associated the spectrum licenses with tight coverage requirements (in order to ensure that services would reach the areas that possibly would not have been covered in a fully commercial regime) this approach has been abandoned. In fact, PTS writes on their website that for instance for the 2100 MHz band (3G) coverage requirements were in place until 2011. After that year there was no need to maintain the requirements to cover 8 860 000 persons as the operators satified this requirement with good margin. Interestingly, with a poplation of over 9 800 000 this leaves a million Swedes without coverage requirements.

4.2 The Swedish regulator

Recently covereage requirements have returned on the agenda of the regulator.

In February 2014, the government decided to release the 700 MHz band (previously used for broadcast television) for other uses from 2017, and asked PTS to examine the future use of this band. The analysis of PTS then showed that the use of mobile broadband for commercial services would give the most added value for the society.

In the autumn 2016, the auction of the 700 MHz spectrum will take place, and notably one of the spectrum blocks in the auction has been associated with a long and detailed list of areal coverage requirements. This is a remarkable return of this kind of requirements and shows the seriousness of the concerns with the development of mobile broadband in rural Sweden.

Furthermore, PTS has announced a workshop in October, inviting actors to contribute with innovative solutions based on a representative pilot case for Vilhelmina where today 47% of the residences do not have access to 30Mbit/s. PTS aims to identify "whether there exist cost- effective technologies that can be provided to residential users by the market". The apparent need for this call is a remarkable confirmation how serious the issue is. (see


METIS, "Requirement analysis and design approaches for 5G air interface", Deliverable D1.1, Doc nr ICT-

317669-METIS/D2.1, 29 April 2013, available from:


6 om-losningar-for-att-uppna-30-Mbits-malet/)


This section lists long term ideas that can help to develop Internet connectivity in Norrbotten.

In general, there is a need for pro-active, self-initiated ideas by stakeholders and actors in Norrbotten, in order to influence the broadband access trends to the benefit of the region.

5.1 New regional local operator initiatives to break the reigning market structures Historically and similar to other countries the Swedish societal structure for cellular networks is dominantly relying on market forces, on a nation-wide view and hence on large network enterprises. One solution dimension is therefore found in finding new regimes for network operation that are suitable for regions where the market forces do not reach. Efforts could be made (nationally or regionally) to establish a regional, cooperative rural mobile operator that provides superior areal broadband coverage and holding a structural potential to scale.

5.2 New infrastruture for quick and cheap roll-out of large-cell networks

In contrast to the recent efforts in the 5G community (a lot of research efforts on very small cells for urban high-capacity scenarios) there is a need for cellular network topologies with very large cells. Reuse of existing (public) infrastructure such as the TV broadcasting infrastructure operated by Teracom could be one component to get such a network into operation.

5.3 New energy and radio technologies to reduce cost

In order to change the underlying business cases that reign today's market structure there needs to be a technical break-through that enables a radically more cost-efficient infrastructure that is capable of delivering mobile broadband to large coverage areas. A dominant cost driver is the need for electricity to power the network equipment. In rural regions where the electricity grid does not naturally reach all locations this cost driver is more pronounced than in other regions. Solutions can be thought of where radio nodes are powered by renewable power sources such as solar or wind. Initial studies show that the availability of solar power in Norrbotten is similar to that at much more southern latitudes.

There are a number of new radio technologies that hold a promise for large-coverage cells, affordable and consuming little energy. Notably one of these technologies is based on new antennas that, in contrast to existing solutions, contain a large number of separate antenna elements. This technology is currently and globally being developed by many comapnies and is expected to reach the market within just a year or two. While this technology is mainly being developed for use in high capacity urban scenarios, it is relatively straightforward to extend its applicability to the rural wide-area coverage regimes.


In summary, Swedish rural regions in general and Norrbotten in particular, are at the risk of

being ignored in the development of Internet access connectivity, in several ways. First,

Swedish targets exclude these regions from efforts towards the 100 Mbit/s goal. Second,

operators focus on regions where margins are large and the return on investment allows

deployment. And third, vendors do not develop the necessary technology and innovations that

could allow for a more cost-effective network deployment, because there is no demand for

such products and innovations.


Therefore, Norrbotten's regional agenda should channel and catalyse any regional activities that address this ignorance. In particular, some of which have been phrased in the recent interim report of the parliamentary commission for the rural regions


, actions

1. directed towards formulation of an inclusive new national target, typically for the year 2025, that includes all residences and workplaces (100%),


2. directed towards a rooted vision that information and communication technology constitutes a fifth means of transport, next to roads, railways, maritime and air traffic.

By viewing information and communication technologies as an integrated part of the transport system, in future infrastructure planning (on local, regional or national level) proper trade-offs can be made with respect to the complementary nature of these means.


3. directed towards formulation of an inclusive new national mobile broadband target by area (rather than by population as in today's targets), typically for the year 2025.

4. directed to increasing public awareness about the limitations that today's mobile operators experience when their perceived societal targets (omnipresent broadband access) are in conflict with their business targets (profitable enterprise).

5. directed towards establishing a new mobile operator regime that is appropriate in those geographical regions where the market mechanisms do not reach.


Table 3: 100 Mbit/s connectivity in Norrbotten's municipalities (from

100Mbit/s households working site

area (km



access within 'tätort/småort'

outside 'tätort/småort'

Arjeplog 1 585 718 13 700 30% 41% 8%

Arvidsjaur 3 388 1 103 6 030 59% 67% 24%

Boden 14 653 3 213 4 220 75% 84% 14%

Gällivare 9 416 2 134 16 700 48% 50% 21%

Haparanda 5 106 1 072 902 39% 48% 0%

Jokkmokk 2 600 1018 19 600 64% 72% 32%

Kalix 8 399 2 313 1 830 28% 32% 1%

Kiruna 11 665 2 631 20 500 59% 62% 14%

Luleå 38 944 8 187 2 030 77% 82% 24%

Pajala 3 396 1 249 8 150 56% 78% 18%

Piteå 20 215 4 980 3 250 70% 75% 32%

Älvsbyn 4 126 1 207 1 750 36% 41% 19%

Överkalix 1 878 727 3 000 20% 29% 0%

Övertorneå 2 522 956 2 550 51% 56% 35%

Norrbotten 127 893 31 508 104 250 62% 69% 19%


Parlamentariska landsbygdkommittén (2016), "På väg mot en ny politik för Sveriges landsbygder –

landsbygdernas utveckling, möjligheter och utmaningar" (SOU 2016:26).






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