We note that our recent award coincided almost perfectly with the publication of a fascinating report from our friends at Diffraction Analysis, commissioned by Google, into the socio-economic benefits of municipal open access dark fibre infrastructure in Stockholm.

You can find the report here:

The report explores the significant benefits that this advanced telecoms infrastructure has brought to the local economy. These include increased attractiveness for business formation and relocation, an increase in administrative efficiency and stimulation of new digital public services as well as acting as a driver of innovation.

Founded in 1994, Stokab represents a blueprint for ubiquitous fibre connectivity within a city and this report highlights the benefits and advantages that York is set to enjoy as a result of its investment in a metro fibre core.

We caught up with the report’s author, Benoît Felten, on the lessons of Stokab and the opportunity for York.

Q: It appears that despite their very different stages of development, there are a number of parallels between the mature fibre network in Stokab and York’s metro fibre core. What do you believe these parallels or contrasts to be?

As we state in the report, replicating Stokab on the scale it was undertaken in Stockholm is unlikely to happen: Tier 1 cities all have some form of fiber coverage these days, and that makes the business case for a broad deployment harder to figure out. The opportunity for Tier 2 cities like York however are real. With further involvement from private players such as CityFibre there really is an opportunity to achieve there in a few years what Stokab took over a decade to get to.

Q: Quantifying the economic impact of an infrastructure development is notoriously complex but given the positive macro-economic effect on Stockholm, how could York expect to benefit over time?

The ability to attract businesses, retain local talent and become a tech hub are all benefits that Stockholm derived from Stokab. It should be pointed out however that for these benefits to be accrued, York needs to be ahead of the curve in terms of availability and quality of services offered, and that the local authority needs to embrace the possibilities offered by digital infrastructure at least as aggressively as Stockholm did. It’s not “field of dreams”; the benefits are directly related to the effort put in leveraging the possibilities of universal fiber.

Q: The Stokab project has greatly increased Stockholm’s attractiveness to businesses. Can you elaborate on this and give us an idea of its evolution and the likely effect of the project on the business make-up of York?

Stockholm is now rated best city in Europe for digital infrastructure and has for the last few years in the Cushman & Wakefield ranks that are widely used by companies to help decide where to locate their offices. This is a direct result of Stokab. Stockholm in parallel made sure that they had the tech talent to be a technology and innovation hub in Europe, not only attracting existing businesses but fostering new companies.

Q: The City of York Council, like many local authorities, has to do more with less. What can the Stokab project tell us about the potential for moving services online and introducing efficiencies in service delivery over the pure fibre network?

Stockholm, in addition to leveraging Stokab for its own IT needs and saving significant amounts of money on that alone (in the first year after Stokab deployment, the City saw its IT & networking bill shrink by over a third!) also focused on migrating many of their services online to serve citizens better and more efficiently. They currently have over 50 e-services for citizens and have become a major reference in e-government.

Q: It’s not only businesses and residents that stand to benefit from a city-wide fibre core. Mobile carriers are facing increasing pressures for backhaul from cell-sites. How might mobile connectivity be enhanced or accelerated by access to this infrastructure?

Current mobile cell-sites are connected to the core networks of the operators through a mix of legacy copper wiring, radio links and fiber. Copper and radio links are strained already by 3G capacity demands, and will be completely overwhelmed by 4G / LTE demands. That means cell-sites need to be fibred up keeping in mind that optimal use of LTE spectrum will likely require many more cell-sites anyway. Stokab is the reason why Stockholm is the leading LTE location in Europe (and probably the world) with four competing LTE networks available to consumers. If each of these had had to deploy their own fiber infrastructure, none of them could have afforded it. The presence of a ubiquitous open access fibre network is what made it possible.

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