It seems that not far from now there won’t be any place on Earth without high-speed broadband internet access.
The Arctic is no longer a secluded, desolate, ice-covered ocean area, surrounded by treeless permafrost. Rich with natural resources such as oil, gas and various minerals, the Arctic is of great interest to many commercial companies. These stakeholders are desperately in need of better communications infrastructure and so is the fishing and shipping industry, with the latter of the two growing steadily in the past years.
"The systems we operate with today work relatively well in latitudes up to 75 degrees north", said Beate Kvamstad, Project Manager and researcher at MARINTEK – one of the companies involved in the project. "Further north, we lack systems which are both stable and which can handle large volumes of data," she said. Kvamstad is responsible for the user requirement analysis which forms the basis for the technological development of the project.
The initiative is in line with the Norwegian government's recommendations for further development in the region, known as the Arctic Policy Strategy. The costs of the whole venture have been estimated to reach up to 3 billion Norwegian Kroner, which is equivalent to £337 million.
"In making these estimates, we have employed cautious and focused requirements and have removed the most cost-intensive special functions" said Hege Lunde, a representative of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting. She further emphasised that intense cooperation between interested parties on both - the governmental and the private side - would be needed if the project is to succeed. "This is why we believe it is necessary that a wide range of organisations contribute towards funding the project. We must all pull together", she said.
As Arctic is one of the regions most threatened by the climate change, the project is also expected to boost environmental monitoring capabilities. Apart from that, local communities will get better internet connectivity and might benefit, for example, from telemedicine applications. Efficient and fast data relay is also crucial for any search and rescue operations in the region.