Sumnet - How fiber enable quality of life
Sumnet is the city network covering the municipality of Storuman, a rural area in the mountain north of Sweden. The municipality has a population of 5 900 and covers an area of 7 500 square kilometre - less than one person per square kilometre in average. The municipality is famous for legendary ski athletes such as Ingemar Stenmark and Anja Pärson (slalom) and Björn Ferry (biathlon).
The first roll-out of fiber began in 2001 after first having asked leading operators at the time if they wanted to build the network. Storuman concluded that it would be both cheaper and more beneficiary to build the network themselves. Today the investment is paying off in multiple ways.
For young people the broadband network can be the difference between moving to a bigger city and staying in the communitiy - or even moving back! For the municipality it means taxpayer money.
One example, described on the municipality homepage, of a former Storuman-resident that now have moved back is agriculturist Sofia Holmberg. Her unique competence meant that she had to find work in the southern part of Sweden. But now she lives in the village Långsjöby in Storuman. From there she is able to keep track of 230 000 laying hens and the egg production of her employer in Skåne, some 1000 kilometer away.
Sofia's office view (photo: Tina Kerro)
- For me, Långsjöby is close to everything. The nature, calmness and freedom is just outside the door. Picking berries, or going fishing without having to drive for miles is a luxury. It is easy to find harmony and I enjoy the silence. The clear contrast of the seasons is also something I appreciate with living here, she says.
Sumnets robust and reliable fiber network enables that life for her.
Today, about 80% of the population in the municipality is able to get a fiber service from one of the 30+ sites covering the vast area. The network is working towards the government goals of 90% coverage by 2020. By 2025 they expect 100% of the population to have access to broadband services of which 98% will be able to get at least 1Gbit/s.
Building a fiber network in Storuman has its particular challenges. The northern location means that the ground is frozen a large part of the year, preventing digging during that time. The long distances and mountainous area also adds cost and time to the roll-out. At the same time, property owners are enthusiastic about the roll-out - everyone wants to get connected - and getting easements to dig cables on private property is usually not a problem. Very little is spent on marketing, instead word-by-mouth and general interest in the population is enough to drive a high demand. The waiting time to get the fiber connection can be long though - there are not enough entrepreneurs to run enough simultaneous roll-outs to meet the demand.
Villagers particularly appreciate the connectivity because it invigorates the life in rural areas. The network brings them closer to the central town of Storuman and many communal services that now are accessible over the network.
- You can run a business, work from home, rent a movie, participate in online training, chat with your friends and do all sorts of things that you used to have to take the car to town to do. In some ways, the fiber networks makes life a bit easier on the countryside, says Aron Pennling, who is in charge of Sumnet.
A robust fiber infrastructure also supports establishment of high-tech businesses such as data center facilities, which thanks to the nordic climate gets competitive costs for power and cooling, bringing new jobs and competence to the community.
For the municipality the network plays a vital role. It is an important investment to support and attract local business. It makes it more attractive to live and work in Storuman, but it also enable communal services to be delivered more cost effectively - saving tax money.
Digitalization open new ways of performing services. For example, the region runs a project, the Rural Medical Center, which is about providing medical services and recruiting doctors to rural areas in the north of Sweden. As part of the project there are two RMC facilities in operation where citizens can consult doctors by video conference and work is ongoing to install this concept also in homes of elderly and other citizens in need of close contact with medical services as a way of beeing able to stay in the familiarity of their own homes rather than move to retirement homes or hospitals. This is an evolution of services that would not have been possible without the fiber network.
- In some aspects the network brings back quality of life for people living in rural areas where everything else often seems to be on the decline, says Aron Pennling.
But its not just about the permanent residents of Storuman. Tärnaby and Hemavan are two popular ski resort villages attracting both tourists and people that buy vacation properties in the area. The ski season means blooming business for restaurants and grocery stores and employment opportunities and has also triggered Sumnet to create a seasonal Internet service where customers can buy a 30-day subscription only that days are consumed based on traffic measurement so customers can save days until their next visit.
- This service is much appreciated. Our ski resorts are very popular. The population grows a lot during the winter holidays and people today of course want to get online as soon as they get off the skis, but they dont need a fixed all-year subscription. So we came up with the day-pass concept which gives them high speed Internet only for the days they are visisting, Aron Pennling explains.
Sumnet is now using Waystream access for their continued roll-out and upgrade. The MS4000 switch is in deployment today. 90% of network issues are due to power outages so battery back up and redundant power to the nodes are therefore important. A low power consumption also helps as it lets battery back-up operate longer. Also temperature variations between summer and winter affect the operating temperature of the equipment.
- Some of the sites are more than 100 kilometer away from our office. It's not the kind of drive anyone wants to make unneccesarily in a winter blizzard. So stability and reliability is very important to us. Waystream was able to provide a competetive product with the functionality Sumnet needs, Mr. Pennlin concludes.