Stories of the Finnish Arctic Expertise

Constructing new digital highways in the Arctic regions

16.6.2017

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Data traffic is growing exponentially. There are major bottlenecks in the current connections. The Top of the World Arctic Broadband Summit in Oulu discussed broadband development and its implications for the Arctic societies and businesses.

“History will be unmerciful. If we do not act now, we will be left behind in the digital future”, urged Khaled Sedrak, the CEO of NxtVn, a global cluster of connected Data Center parks. He compared our time to the beginning of the industrial era. Towns that built harbors and invested in railroad connections flourished, others perished. 

“In digital economy data cables are the new trading routes”, says Jukka-Pekka Joensuu. He is executive advisor in Cinia, a Finnish company that has launched a fiber-optic link under the Baltic Sea connecting Finland and Germany. Joensuu’s new passion is the Arctic Connect project, a plan for to build a secure subsea cable connection through Finnish Lapland to Kirkenes and Teriberka all the way to Hokkaido, Vladivostok and Beijing. 

This submarine broadband connection linking Europe and Asia via the Northeast Passage is a hot topic in Finland these days. 

Data flow between Europe and Asia is increasing. The new connection would help bits travel faster and decrease latency, the delay before transfer of data begins.  For security, we also need redundancy; alternative links so that there is always another connection available if one is down. If the new broadband connection is built, it will shift the geographical center of gravity of data traffic between Asia and Europe. 

As industries in the North are going through a digital transformation, better and faster connections are badly needed. In sparsely populated Arctic regions, digital health and education services would help the local population.

Unfortunately, digital highways are expensive to build in the Arctic conditions. Political decisions and local, regional and international cooperation are essential

 “There is a gap that needs to be patched. We need leadership in building the digital infrastructure; we need people who understand the need of fast and reliable connections in the Arctic regions the same way as they understand the need for water supply networks or sewer systems”, Khaled Sedrak said.

The organizer of the Top of the World Arctic Broadband Summit is the Arctic Economic Council, an independent organization that facilitates Arctic business-to-business activities and responsible economic development, and provides advice and a business perspective to the work of the Arctic Council.

Photo: Petteri Löppönen