Experiences from Building Fiber Networks in Rural Areas

In Sweden, the expansion of fiber networks to homes and businesses began in the 1990s. In 1998, the Swedish government conducted an infrastructure investigation, concluding that fiber expansion outside cities and urban areas would not occur without public support.

During the 2000s, there was an extensive expansion of fiber networks from cities and urban areas to small towns and rural regions. EU funding was distributed regionally, and through tenders, the contract for building was awarded to those who could extend the network furthest into the countryside at the lowest cost. The expansion’s cost was financed by the EU at 40-60%.

In the 2010s, EU funds were allocated to regions for expanding fiber networks to homes and businesses. Municipalities, companies, and associations could apply. The applicants specified which households and companies they intended to connect. Depending on the region, the EU covered 40-70% of the cost. Expansion under this model is expected to be completed by 2024.

In 2020, a new program was initiated to support fiber expansion in rural areas. The authority (PTS) determined which buildings were eligible for support. Every year, a call for tenders is conducted where applicants choose unserved locations and specify compensation. The lowest bidder for the applied area wins. Expansion under this model is expected to be completed by 2027.

Today, nearly 98% of all permanent homes and businesses in Sweden have Gigabit broadband connections. The various programs implemented since the early 2000s have had varying degrees of success. It can be stated that public support is not needed in smaller towns and rural areas where the average distance between buildings is less than 650 feet.

Effective Use of Public Funds.

Public support is most effective for buildings with an average distance of more than 1300 feet. between them. Buildings located in areas between 650 and 1300 feet can largely be connected commercially as they are passed when building fiber networks from small towns to areas beyond 1300 feet. This model delineates the line between commercial and aid-financed expansion. The optimal support level is around 60%.

Briefly about Open Infra

Open Infra began its operations in Sweden in 2009. At that time, there was a significant demand for fiber connections, and Open Infra’s solution of an open network was well received. The company’s first fiber network was built in Österskär, north of Stockholm.

Since then, Open Infra has expanded, constructing fiber networks in 150 municipalities (out of a total of 290) and serving approximately 120,000 paying end customers. As of 2019, Open Infra also builds and operates fiber networks in Germany, England, Norway, and in Texas and Florida in the US, with a total of approximately 280,000 paying end customers.

To maintain a very high expansion rate, Open Infra has contracting companies within the group that build fiber networks. Currently, the expansion rate stands at approximately 100,000 feet per day, every day of the year.

Open Infra is keenly interested in establishing a presence in more states in the US and seeks to establish contact with state representatives.

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