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The extension of sophisticated broadband and regional competitiveness – the case of västra götaland in Sweden

Sten Lorentzon
p. 27-46

Résumés

Cet article porte sur le « haut débit filaire » dans des entreprises situées dans les périphéries urbaines de l’ouest de la Suède. La question posée est celle de la compétitivité régionale et de l’usage des technologies de l’information et de la communication. Dans un contexte de montée en puissance de la société de la connaissance et de la compétence, construite sur l’efficacité des réseaux numériques, il s’avère important de prendre en compte l’influence des décideurs locaux dans leurs capacités à soutenir la présence d’activités économiques. Finalement, cet article montre qu’il ne faut pas négliger le besoin d’échange d’informations peu structurées, mettant en lumière l’importance du face-à-face et du maintien des rencontres physiques.

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Texte intégral

The author is grateful for constructive comments provided by two anonymous referees.

Introduction

1The use of ICT offers new opportunities and awakens hope as a potential force facilitating location of activities to peripheral areas. This issue concerns e.g. extension of infrastructure for transport and communication, accessibility to attractive environments and supply of works. To consume current information there is a need for presence in networks. To create trust there is a need for accessible meeting-places enabling transmission of informal unstructured information; a prerequisite for developing of knowledge and competence. But the demand for presence in activities located far away is restricted by the need of proximity to activities of the daily life. The new possibilities of ICT are restricted by biological and psychological capacity of the human being (Törnqvist 1998).

2Investments in ICT-infrastructure influence the appeal of different areas. But there is an important difference between having the technical infrastructure in place and having the possibility in practice to utilize that infrastructure. There is a risk that access to services offered by the information society increases the digital divide (PTS 2009 a,b). New technology tends to reach the periphery at the end of the diffusion process. Digitilization of the telenet and the extension of broadband-nets favour urban compared to peripheral areas. It is a continous process indicating a time-lag that hinders the competitive ability of the periphery. The geographical consequences of this process are hard to estimate.

3In a Swedish perspective some geographical observations should be made when introducing new ICT. Forest, iron and waterfalls have been decisive resources for location and development of industries. Long distances have stimulated the development of transport solutions and systems for the transmission of power and messages. Locations to waterfalls shaped the Swedish settlement structure characterized by activities located to small districts in sparsely populated areas. The area of Sweden is 450 000 km2 and the distance from North to South is nearly 1 600 km. The population of 9,3 million is unevenly spread; sparsely areas in the North in contrast to densely populated areas in the South (SNA 1995, SCB 2009-05-07). Furthermore, the unicentric organisation of Sweden has meant concentration of activities to Stockholm, the capital. This unicentric structure also indicates a strong position of the capital in networks based on new ICT (Rutherford et al 2004, Rutherford 2005).

4The population in the county of Västra Götaland is almost 1,6 million (SCB 2009-05-06). The location of the county at the west coast of Sweden has stimulated the development of trade and transport. Gothenburg has become a transport centre of Scandinavia based on its major role for international trade. The northern part of the county borders on Norway (SNA 2003). Along this border shopping is intensive, based on strong Norwegian currency and low Swedish prices.

5The county of Västra Götaland was established in 1998 by the amalgamation of the counties of Göteborgs and Bohus, Skaraborg and Älvsborg. Thereby, Västra Götaland became the largest county (23 956 km2) in the South of Sweden with Gothenburg as the dominating labour-market and the hub of Västra Götaland (Statistics Sweden 2008). But there are also important labour-markets such as Borås, Skövde and Trollhättan counter-balancing the dominance of Göteborg. One challenge is to create functional regions of these markets. Another challenge is to integrate peripheral places.

6As the society is developing towards more knowledge-intensive production attention is paid to the human being when locating activities. Many wishes, such as access to different types of works and living in agreeable surroundings, have to be satisfied. In Västra Götaland there are many workplaces in Göteborg. In the periphery of the county there is an abundant supply of houses in attractive environments. In this context the standard of infrastructure for transport and communication is a key factor. Figure 1 shows the infrastructure for transportation and big places located to the largest municipalities (more than 50 000 inhabitants) of Västra Götaland.

7This paper focuses access to wired broadband at businesses located to the periphery in the West of Sweden. The issue concerns regional competitiveness related to the prerequisites of using sophisticated ICT. The prerequisites for exchange of unstructured information by face-to-face contacts and access to meeting places are also considered.

Theoretical frame of reference and issues

8The approach of this paper is based on some central geographical fields of theories; the theory of central places, of innovations, of large technical systems and the theory of migration. These theories are reflected in where investments in infrastructure for transport and communication take place, the way innovations are spread, where technical systems are constructed and in what way different areas may attract living and activities.

9Road systems and contacts are important factors of the theory of central places to understand the hierarchical positions of places seen as nodes in networks (Christaller 1933). Competitive advantages are related to the infrastructure for transport and communication. When messages are transmitted by the telenet the connections are so tight that the net can be regarded as having no nodal functions. At the same time the development of ICT stresses the importance of being present in networks. High accessibility means great prerequisites to compete and attract information-demanding activities (Castells 1996, Törnqvist 1998, Langdale 1999).

Figure 1. Railways, roads and big places in Västra Götaland

Figure 1. Railways, roads and big places in Västra Götaland

Design : Jonathan Borggren, Center for Regional Analysis

10The process of innovation from introduction to saturation can be seen from both time- and space perspectives. The diffusion of phenomenon behaves according to the same geographical pattern; introduction at some places and thereafter spread and at the same time condensed around the first places. This process includes different stages. At the primary stage most objects are accepted close to the center of innovation. At the stage of diffusion more objects are accepted outside than close to the center of innovation. Thereafter the course of innovation is decreasing or interrupted at the stages of condensation and saturation. At the last stages the differences between the centre and the periphery are straighten out (Hägerstrand 1953). Studies in Sweden of the introduction of ICT-products indicate a similar pattern; the spread from large to small places and further to sparsely populated areas (Forsström and Lorentzon 1986, Wiberg 1990).

11During the 1980´s the theory of Large Technical Systems (LTS) was launched (Hughes 1987, Ingelstam 1991). LTS, such as systems for electricity, railways and transmission of information, are related to some specific qualities. They are technically, socially and economically complicated. The construction and survival of the systems need many participants (Kaijser 1990). Dependencies are built up on many geographical levels. Laws and rules are introduced to control the activities. Investments are often concentrated to established corridors of traffic. The introduction of new high capacity systems of information indicates strengthening of big city-regions in comparison to the periphery.

12Pull and push are central conceptions of the theory of migration. Good climate, supply of various types of work, living in agreeable environments and low taxes are examples of pull factors, while unemployment and low salaries are examples of push factors. These factors influence the location of activities. Thus, local/regional representatives try to strengthen the pull factors by efforts on e.g. culture, ICT and education. At the same time actors, at decision of relocation, have to consider in what way different push factors should be judged. The number of locational choices have increased by the extension of technical range. On the other hand there are forces stressing local and regional identities (Jönsson et al 2000).

13This theoretical frame indicates that new technology tends to be introduced in big places. But hopes are linked to the use of new ICT facilitating location of activities to peripheral areas by the extension of the infrastructure such as the nets of fibre optics. The competitive situation of the periphery, however, is complicated by the technical upgrading of ICT. New ICT is continously introduced and tends to favour big city-regions. Thus efforts have to be made to counteract these tendencies of concentration. In this context pull- and push factors within the theory of migration is of special interest.

14The assumption is that introduction and use of new ICT have become more important for the location of activities. The actors of the telemarket of today push communication of wireless broadband. But the extension of high capacity connections is condtioned by optical fibre technology that makes access to wired broadband to an important locational factor. Furthermore, transmission of informal unstructured information needs meetings face-to-face enabled by infrastructure for passenger traffic. An overall question is if broadband is an escalating necessity for regional competitiveness. The issues focus the situation in the county of Västra Götaland and concern:

  • The infrastructure for transmission of information by wired broadband; mainly optical fibre cables.

  • The market of communication services and actors.

These issues are dealt with by studies of the technical upgrading of ICT, the changes of the telemarket, the extension of the infrastructure for broadband and the use of ICT. The prerequisites for transmission of informal/unstructured information are also considered.

Methods and data

15The studies are mainly based on official data of Swedish statistics and on information collected at interviews of representatives of authorities and businesses. Studies of the infrastructure for transmission of information, conducted by the Swedish Post- and Telecommunications Authority (PTS), show that the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed in Västra Götaland reach less than 99 percent coverage of wired or wireless broadband. This information makes these municipalities of special interest for studies of supply and use of broadband at discussing competitiveness of different places/regions.

16The interviews were conducted in three steps. In the initial stage information was collected by contacts with representatives of the authority of Västra Götaland responsible for the extension of infrastructure for communication. This information clarified the importance of giving high priority to construction of fibre optic nets when investing in infrastructure for communication. Fibre optic nets are necessary at increasing of transmission capacity for both wired and wireless broadband.

17During the second step information was collected by contacts with persons responsible for development of industries in the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed. The issue was to select three businesses of each municipality located to different types of geographical surroundings; one in the central place, one in another place and one in rural areas.

18During the third step representatives (eight managers and one IT-manager) of these recommended businesses were asked for permission (by telephone) to send them a questionnairie focusing the use of broadband. After acceptance the questionnairie was sent by e-mail to the respondents. Some days later information was collected by telephone interviews with these nine persons; one from each business.

Technical upgrading of ICT

19Characteristic for new ICT is the continous upgrading. It´s a process complicating decision making of when, where and how investments in new ICT should be made. The challenges are many and concern e.g. investments in fibre or satellite technologies and/or investments in infrastructure of person transport enabling transmission of informal unstructured information by face-to-face contacts; a strategic factor for regional competitiveness.

20During the 1960´s new satellite technology revolutioned the possibilities to communicate globally. But during the last decades the introduction of fibre optics has challenged communication by satellites. The technical development of optical fibres has continued rapidly and the spread of fiberoptic systems has increased. But these changes also indicate varying prerequisites to participate in the flows of information of the world. Thus, the use of Internet globally is mainly an urban phenomenon that tends to reinforce the urban hierarchy with expansive big cities. Furthermore, there is a risk of increasing digital divide by the rapid growth of diverse broadband technologies (Castells 2001, Kellerman 2002, Malecki 2002, Dicken 2007, Malecki and Moriset 2008).

21Attention is here paid to the technical development of ICT in Sweden. Transmission of information by telecommunication takes place by wire or by wireless telephony. Sweden had early a well developed telenet, that increased up to 2001 (SIKA 2005). Since then the use of mobile telephony dominates. During the period 1998 – 2007 the number of teleservices decreased from 6 to 4,7 million, while the number of mobile teleservices increased from 4,1 to 10,4 million. During this period the number of Internet-subscriptions increased from 1,5 to 4,1 million (SIKA 2008-12-22).

22From a political point of view the Swedish telecommunications policy is directed to offer a high quality infrastructure at low costs throughout the country. Big efforts have been made, such as investments in the construction of the digital switching stations (AXE; started in 1980) and the digitalizing of the telecommunications network in all Sweden, to ensure every household connection to the wired telephone network. Systems for mobile communications are well developed. These systems were also introduced at an early stage; NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone Network) in 1982 and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) in 1992. The analogue NMT-system has less transmission capacity than the GSM-system that is digital (Maskell et al 1998). The introduction of NMT took place in the North of Sweden and was based on agreements of the Nordic countries, while the GSM has gradually spread from densely to sparsely populated areas of Sweden. The increase of the use of mobile teleservices, 3G-telephony and IP-based telephony are at present the most significant changes of the telemarket (SIKA 2005).

23By the introduction of new technologies new areas have been conquered. The first data transmission service started in 1962 when modems were installed. Planning for a public data network was initiated in the early 1970s and several data communications services became commercially available during the first years of the 1980s (Karlsson 1998). Internet was established by the Swedish university network in 1988. Broadband is successively constructed. Furthermore, satellite communication technology was developed during the 1960s. In 1964 INTELSAT (international consortium) for governing the space segment of a global satellite system was established and the Scandinavian countries were represented from the beginning. A common earth station for telecommunications traffic was constructed and opened in 1971 between the Nordic countries and the USA. A satellite system of Europe was created in 1977 (EUTELSAT). The convention was signed by Sweden and in 1983 the first satellite was launched; new satellite technology opened the market for new types of services (Karlsson 1998).

Deregulation and actors

24National organisations have traditionally been responsible for the transmission of information. These post- telegraph- and telephone-companies (PTT) grew to big organisations. But Sweden deviates from this pattern. Post and telecommunications have been under separate authorities in Sweden since the end of the 19th century, enabling early competition between these branches (Kuuse 1984). In 1910s the Swedish telecommunications sector became a public monopoly. In the 1980s this monopoly regime started to decline and in 1993 the state-owned agency (Televerket) was transformed into a limited company (Telia). Since this time Sweden has been one of the world´s most deregulated markets in respect to telecommunications (Karlsson 1998, Maskell et al 1998).

25Internationally the situation was changed at the phase of liberalisation in USA and later in Europe. The introduction of competition in Great Britain in 1984 and the privatization of British Telecom influenced the deregulation of national telemarkets. There were also other factors contributing to the opening of the national tele-markets. Thus, new ICT reduced the costs for some types of infrastructure and facilitated for new operators to enter the market. Another factor was the need for better systems of international communications. Small national markets in Europe were also seen as barriers for European operators in comparison to Japanese and American actors (Steinfield et al 1994).

26Sweden was early adapted to the rules of EU concerning liberalization and harmonization (PTS 2002). In the mid-1990´s four actors dominated the Swedish telemarket: Telia, Tele 2, Comviq and Europolitan. Telia and Tele 2 were able to offer subscriptions in different nets, while Europolitan and Comviq were directed towards mobile telephony and communication of information of small companies. At the end of 1990´s the situation changed. From 1st of July 1997 operators that intend to offer any kind of telecommunication have to ask for permission at the authority PTS (Swedish Post- and Telecommunications Authority) that was etablished in 1992. In 2003 about 50 companies were assumed to have offered fixed services of conversation. The dominating operator was Telia (market share about 70%)(SIKA 2005).

27The market for mobile telephony differs as the transmission is based on radiofrequencies. This is a restricted resource that limits the number of operators having their own nets. In 2003 there were four owners of which Telia was the largest operator (more than 40% of the subscriptions)(SIKA 2005). The use of mobile telephony has increased tremendously since the mid-1990´s. In 1995 there were about 2 million that in 2007 had increased to more than 10 million subscribers (SIKA 2001, 2008-12-22).

Broadband

28This section considers the infrastructure for broadband in Sweden and in the county of Västra Götaland.

Sweden

29Studies of Swedish areas with access or missing access to communications of high standard (capacity of at least 2Mbit/s) show that existence of broadband infrastructure is not the same as access to broadband. For this the user needs connection to nets of high capacity and is able to sign subscriptions at an operator. In the first place the issue may be installation of equipment, while the second issue may mean capacity of the operator to add a new customer. Thus, to live in an area of infrastructure for broadband does not mean that everyone can be offered broadband subscriptions. Wireless nets are also limited. For example, there are problems of diminishing capacity at large flows of information or long geographical distances between base-station and user.

30Concerning wired technologies xDSL is most spread. xDSL is a common name for techniques using digital modems for broadband by copparwire used for telephony. This technology creates the possibility of broadband access for about 97 percent of the Swedish population and to nearly 95 percent of workplaces. Besides, nearly half of the fixed connections are based on this technology. But there are signs of stagnation of the xDSL technology. This is especially pronounced at comparison of the development of fiber-LAN that has increased substantially during the last years (PTS 2009a,b).

31In addition, large parts of the Swedish population has basic conditions for broadband by many techniques such as xDSL, cable-TV, fiber-LAN, HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and CDMA 2000 (Code Division Multiple Access). HSPA and CDMA are wireless nets. Most of the people not connected by broadband usually live on the countryside.

  • 1 Real access to broadband means that households or businesses at short time and with no specfic cost (...)
  • 2 In Sweden with sparsely populated areas the issue of canalisation is of special interest as the cos (...)

32Studies of basic conditions for broadband and the real use of broadband point to big differences. The results indicate that the real use of broadband is less than a third of the popoulation that can use broadband. At the same time there are difficulties to satisfy the demand for capacity of the customers. This especially concerns the demand for high speed connections. The picture is too optimistic concerning basic conditions for broadband connections, while the real access is much less1. Reasons to this discrepancy may for example be technical difficulties of the operators or bad equipment of the users. But independent of reason this discrepancy is serious as the demand for more capacity probably will increase in the future (PTS 2009b)2.

33The future development points to more demand for electronical communications. In a geographical context the Swedish communicative prerequisites tend to diverge in two directions. One direction tells that the market is unsufficient to repay investments in infrastructure for broadband. The other direction shows extension of infrastructure. A consequence is increasing differences between people who have and people who don´t have access to sophisticated ICT (PTS 2009b). In addition, the users of broadband spend more time on the net and use more sophisticated types of Internet than e.g. users of modems (Bergström 2007). SMS is the most common used facility of the mobile market (Bolin 2007, Holmberg and Weibull 2007).

Västra Götaland

34Nets for digital transmission of information in Västra Götaland have been diffused from the centre to the periphery. The first users of modems in the beginning of the 1980´s were located to the central parts of the Gothenburg region (Forsström and Lorentzon 1984, 1986). The infrastructure for wired broadband in Västra Götaland is mainly found in and around big places that are interlinked by cables of high capacity. Figure 2 shows the regional interlinked net supporting connections of activities such as health service.

35The difference is similar concerning the infrastructure for wireless broadband; less extended infrastructure in peripheral than in central parts of Västra Götaland. Within Västra Götaland 10 of the 49 municipalities do not reach 100 percent coverage of wired or wireless broadband. Of these 10 municipalities 7 are located to the northern parts of the county. Municipalities of less than 99 percent coverage – Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed – are located at the Norwegian border (PTS 2008).

Figure 2. Infrastructure for wired broadband (10 Gb capacity) connecting mainly central places of the municipalities of Västra Götaland in spring 2009.

Figure 2. Infrastructure for wired broadband (10 Gb capacity) connecting mainly central places of the municipalities of Västra Götaland in spring 2009.

Note: The borders of the municipalities are also marked in the figure.

Source: UBIT (2009-05-19).

36In comparison to all Sweden the infrastructure for communication in Västra Götaland is good with exception of fibre-LAN (Strategi 2009). Access to technologies for transmission of messages is similar among households in Västra Götaland and all Sweden. The initial stage of technological development is characterized by rapid growth and reaches a stage of saturation where 80 percent or more of the population has access to the new technology. But the access varies between different groups; especially between young and old. Retired people have in general limited access to new ICT even if personal computers and Internet are spread also among people elder than 50 years. Of people in the age group of 15 – 29 years 91 percent and of the age group of 50 – 64 years 83 percent have computers. Corresponding shares for Internet are 97 and 89 percent respectively. In the age group of 65 - 85 years the share is the same for personal computers and Internet; 43 percent (Bergström 2008)

Use of broadband

37The focus of this section is the use of broadband. Type of activity, when the business was established and why the location took place are also issues raised in this section. Furthermore, attention is paid to the preferences of living place of the respondents. This observation of man as a decisive factor at location of activities is related to the development of a more knowledge-oriented society. The survey deals with businesses located to the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed.

38These municipalities are located in the northern parts of Västra Götaland at the border to Norway. This peripheral location of Västra Götaland, however, turns to a central location when related to the Norwegian side of the border. Here the most dynamic industries of Norway are found. The interaction between Norway and Sweden is considerable, especially reflected in shopping in the border area. Driving forces are high incomes in Norway and low prices in Sweden. The Norwegian – Swedish interaction is also comprehensive within regional policy by efforts made to stimulate cross-border cooperation.

39The number of population in Strömstad is 11 600 of which 6 100 live in the central place of Strömstad. Corresponding figures for Tanum is 12 300 and 1 600 in Tanumshede, while nearly 3 000 of the 4 800 inhabitants of the municipality of Dals- Ed live in the central place of Ed. Thus, the settlement structure and the population of the municipalities vary even if the number of inhabitants is small. In Västra Götaland Dals-Ed is the smallest (pop. less than 5 000) of 49 municipalities, while Göteborg is the largest municipality (pop. 500 000). As the area of the municipalities is big there are few people per km2: 25 in Strömstad, 13 in Tanum and 7 in Dals-Ed (SCB 2009-03-05).

40The central place of Ed is linked by railway to Halden (pop. 22 000) and Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg (pop. about 100 000) in Norway (Statistical Yearbook 2008). The central places of Strömstad and Tanumshede are linked by railway to Munkedal (pop. 3 700 ) and Uddevalla (pop. 30 500). But the intensity of the traffic is low. By the extension of road E6 to motorway standard the accessibilty to areas both North and South of Strömstad and Tanumshede will increase. Road 164 connecting Ed to road E6 is of regular standard. The connections by road from Ed to Norwegian places are restricted by rough topography.

41The survey has been performed by interviews with people representing three businesses of each municipality; Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed. In each municipality one business should be located to the central place, one to another place and one business to the rural area. Figure 3 shows the location of selected businesses to the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed.

42The results of the survey are based on answers to the following questions:

  • Why did you locate to the present municipality?

  • Do you use wired and/or wireless broadband?

  • If yes, in what way and what transmission capacity is offered (Mbit/s)?

  • Is there any lack of transmission capacity?

  • Do you use wired and/or wireless broadband to customers/suppliers in Norway?

  • The questions also concern the ability to meet face-to-face:

  • Is there any meeting-place where you meet e.g. customers and suppliers for transmission of informal/unstructured information?

  • If yes, what place and what type of passenger traffic (e.g. bus or/and train) do you use for these meetings?

In addition, the issues concern factors decisive for individual choice of living place.

Figure 3. The location of selected businesses with decleration of type of businesses. Besides the Norwegian cities of Halden and Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg are marked.

Figure 3. The location of selected businesses with decleration of type of businesses. Besides the Norwegian cities of Halden and Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg are marked.

Note: One business is not marked as the activities are located to many places.

43The type of businesses vary and includes resource -as well as service-oriented activities. The number of employees varies from 2 to 200 persons. The businesses have been foundet between 1949 and 1999. Many factors explain the location, such as ownership (e.g. Norwegian owners), love, living place of the founder, resources, land, localities and ”right” location in relation to Gothenburg and Oslo. The location of the saw-mill to a rural area is related to the demand for forest. The influence of access to new ICT on the locational choice was insignificant as broadband usually was not installed at the time for the establishment of the businesses. But ICT-facilities are today a decisive factor of location. Table 1 shows type of businesses, number of employees, start-up year and location of the nine selected businesses.

Table 1. Type of businesses, number of employees, start-up year and type of location

Type of businesses

Number of employees

Start-up year

Type of location

Central

Other

Rural

Prod. of building-elements

20

1999

x

Industrial watercleaning

10

1987

x

Customs Services

200

1963

x

x

x

Saw-mill

39

1974

x

Wholesaler of truck-compon

17

1976

x

Prod., sales metallurgy-equipm.

33

1954

x

Exports

2

1993

x

Prod. of windows

147

1949

x

Prod. pallets and packing

57

1962

x

Note: One business is located at all types of location.

44All of the businesses use wired broadband for transmission of data. The transmission capacity of the broadband is usually 2 Mbit/s; one business has a capacity of 20-30 Mbit/s. The question if there is any lack of transmission capacity is often answered by a wish for more capacity.

45Wireless broadband is, with one exception, used by the businesses for different purposes such as laptops at travelling, internal networks and as a reserv. The capacity is not a common problem. But businesses located in rural areas find the function of wireless broadband problematic by bad contacts and not reliable connections.

46Broadband to customers/suppliers in Norway is used by 4 of the nine businesses. Examples of the use of wireless broadband are connections to workplaces, ”own” connection and for e-mail.

47The need for a specific place for meetings enabling transmission of informal/unstructured information is limited as the contacts are mainly customer-oriented and the customers are found in many places. Two businesses mention the location of the production unit as meeting place. One company prefers to meet at a place located within the operative area of the company, while another company prefers the place where the largest unit of the company is located.

48The importance of different factors influencing the individual choice of living place is shown in table 2. Each respondent should choose three of the most important factors decisive for their choice of living place. The scores reflect the ranking of factors by the representatives/respondents of the businesses.

Table 2: Factors decisive for the individual choice of living place.

Factor

Scores

Supply of works

3

Family and friends

5

Environment (like fresh air and clean water)

2

Landscape admits living in attractive surroundings

5

Site of housing, quality and costs

3

Educational facilities/school

3

Supply of broadband

2

Access to train and/or bus-connections

2

Supply of goods and services

-

Supply of culture

1

Others

1

Note: The score is in total 27 as each person (9) should choose 3 of the most important factors decisive for their choice of living place.

49The answers show the importance of the factors ”family and friends” and ”landscape admits living in attractive surroundings” for the choice of living place. ”Supply of works”, ”Site of housing, quality and costs” and ”educational facilities/school” as well as infrastructure for transport and communication (including access to broadband) are also high-ranked factors.

Conclusion

50Resource-oriented locations have shaped the Swedish settlement structure characterized by activities located as islands in sparsely populated areas. Long distances from North to South have stressed the importance of new technologies enabling efficient transports and systems for transmission of messages. In the addition tradition of central governing of Sweden has strengthened Stockholm, the city, as the national centre for decision making. In this context the use of ICT may facilitate location of activities outside big urban areas.

51The geographical prerequisites for Sweden as a whole are also relevant when studying the extension of new ICT in Västra Götaland. The size of the county allows a broad range of varying geographical prerequisites, explained by the amalgamation of counties. The county of Västra Götaland is characterized by a multicentric settlement structure with many labour-markets. The challenge is to develop these markets into functional regions and to integrate peripheral areas.

52The development towards more knowledge-intensive production inreases the importance of the human being as a decisive factor when locating activities. This means more attention paid to the needs of man, such as demand for living in attractive environments. The ability to satisfy this type of demand is related to the facilities to communicate. Hereby, the introduction of new ICT is a useful tool. It is important though to observe the risk of an increasing gap between the people who have and those who do not have access to these flows of information. The issue concerns the importance of being linked by new transmission technology to shape regional competitiveness.

53An assumption is that introduction of new ICT such as access to broadband has become more important when locating activities. Studies of the infrastructure for transmission of information by wired - mainly optical fibre cables - broadband and the market of communication services and actors are at focus. The prerequisites for transmission of informal/unstructured information are also considered.

54By looking at the spatial patterns of communications some observations can be made concerning the ability to communicate at different geographical levels. Globally the introduction of fibre optics has challenged communication by satellites and the access to fiberoptic systems has increased. These changes also indicate varying prerequisites to participate in the flows of information of the world. Sweden had early a well developed telenet and has also built infrastructure for broadband enabling access nearly all over the country. But the access is limited concerning access to high-capacity broadband even if Swedish telecommunications policy is directed to offer a high quality infrastructure at low costs throughout the country. The process of introducing new ICT tends to verify the theoretical standpoint and follows the course of innovation; from urban to rural areas. This delay strengthens the digital divide of the county and emphasizes the importance of facilitating investments in infrastructure for broadband in sparsely populated areas.

55The differences of access to new ICT between urban and rural areas in Sweden are also obvious in the use of broadband. Surveys of access or missing access to broadband with capacity of at least 2 Mbit/s indicate big differences when compared to real use. To live in an area of infrastructure for broadband does not mean that everyone can be offered broadband subscriptions. There are difficulties to satisfy the demand for especially high speed connections and there is a gap between the official picture of broadband connections and the real access to broadband. Technical difficulties of the operators or bad equipment of the users may explain this discrepancy. This observation of the gap between supply and real use of broadband is of special interest as the demand for more capacity probably will increase in the future. The efforts made to neutralize these differences may be decisive for the competitiveness of peripheral regions.

56The extension of broadband in Västra Götaland has followed the common process of diffusion from the centre to the periphery. Broadband has mainly been constructed in and around big places that are interlinked by cables of high capacity, while the infrastructure of the periphery is less developed. This development is in accordance with the theory of central places and the theory of LTS, emphasizing the strong position of city-regions compared to the periphery. Here, these structural differences are stressed by the fact that elderly people often live in peripheral areas with limited access to new technologies for transmission of messages, while young people often live in centrally located areas with built-up infrastructure for communication. ICT-use is more common among young than old people. The tendency is an increase of the gap in ICT-use between centre and periphery; especially pronounced in differences of ICT-use among young and old people.

57The infrastructure for communication in Västra Götaland is generally good, but less developed concerning fibre-LAN. Studies of the access to wired broadband among businesses, located to the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed at the border to Norway, show that wired broadband for transmission of data is used by a wide range of businesses. The type as well as the organisational structure of businesses vary. Both resource- and service-oriented activities are included. The transmission capacity of the broadband of the businesses is usually 2 Mbit/s, but there is a demand for more capacity. Wireless broadband is also used by all businesses. The capacity (2 Mbit/s) is in many cases insufficient and the function of the connections problematic. There is a risk that insufficient capacity and the coverage of nets of information – especially lack of fibre optic broadband connections - will hinder the competitiveness of the county.

58The location of the businesses at the border between Sweden and Norway makes cross-border links of special interest. This interest is underlined by the economic differences between the Swedish and Norwegian areas. The survey shows that wired broadband connections to customers/suppliers in Norway are not common. The transmission capacity is usually 2Mbit/s but more capacity is demanded. Satisfaction of this demand - extension of fibre optic cables - may be a strategic tool to increase the competitiveness of the border area between Sweden and Norway.

59The ability to transmit informal unstructured information by face-to-face contacts should also be seen in relation to the conditions of the Norwegian surroundings. Cross-border connections are mostly reflected in shopping along the border. Factors such as different incomes in Norway and Sweden, infrastructure for transportation and efforts of regional policy explain these border activities. In this context the municipalities of Strömstad, Tanum and Dals-Ed are functionally integrated in Västra Götaland in Sweden and Östfold Fylke in Norway. But the survey indicates a limited need for cross-border meetings by businesses as the customer relations are often based on visits to workplaces. The diversified pattern of customers requires meetings in different places and the type of activity decides the importance of meetings. It is a network of contacts that changes and deviates from the hierarchical structure of the theory of central places. The need for contacts is rather horizontal than vertical and flexible in contrast to stable. A consequence is demand in investments in infrastructure satisfying changing needs of connections; in sparsely populated areas special attention should be paid to investments in roads enablig accessibility by car.

60The individual choice of living place is based on many factors such as ”family and friends”, ”attractive surroundings”, ”supply of works”, ”site of housing” and ”infrastructure for transport and communication” (including access to broadband). The result indicates strong demand for environmental conditions that offer living in agreeable surroundings. This demand emphasizes the importance of considering different factors at efforts made to support competitiveness of regions.

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Annexe

Contacts and interviews

- Andersson Tommy. Manager. Con-form; production of building-elements (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-19, telephone interview 2009-05-27).

- Antonsson Lars-Erik. Head of industry and commerce of Strömstad municipality(telephone call 2009-05-19).

- Blom Hans-Olov. Manager. Bozela Parts AB; wholesaler of truck-components (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-20, telephone interview 2009-05-27).

- Danielsson Kerstin. Head of industry and commerce of Tanum municipality (e-mail 2009-05-20, 2009-05-25 and telephone call 2009-06-01).

- Erlandsson Urban. Manager. Norexor AB; exports of parts for engines (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-27, telephone interview 2009-06-01).

- Glesån Gustaf. Head of industry and commerce of Tanum municipality (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-20).

- Lie Nils-Håkon. Manager. Moelven Nössemark Trä AB; saw-mill (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-20, telephone interview 2009-05-28).

- Lundström, Roger. IT-manager. KGH Customs Services; customs services (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-19, telephone interview 2009-05-29).

- Martinesen Jan-Olaf. Manager. Protech Scandinavia AB; production and selling of equipment for matallurgy (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-19, telephone interview 2009-05-29).

- Niklasson Franklin. Manager. Aven Rabbalshede; production of pallets and packing of wood (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-27, telephone interview 2009-06-01).

- Rosell Lars. Manager. Vilokan; industrial watercleaning (telephone call and e-mail 2009-05-20, telephone interview 2009-05-28).

- Thulin Hans. Manager. TanumsFönster AB; production of windows (telephone call and e-mail 2009-06-09, telephone interview 2009-06-10).

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Notes

1 Real access to broadband means that households or businesses at short time and with no specfic costs can order a subscription of broadband to a specific address (PTS 2009b).

2 In Sweden with sparsely populated areas the issue of canalisation is of special interest as the costs for canalisation is between 50-80 percent of the total investments.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Railways, roads and big places in Västra Götaland
Crédits Design : Jonathan Borggren, Center for Regional Analysis
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/464/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 876k
Titre Figure 2. Infrastructure for wired broadband (10 Gb capacity) connecting mainly central places of the municipalities of Västra Götaland in spring 2009.
Légende Note: The borders of the municipalities are also marked in the figure.
Crédits Source: UBIT (2009-05-19).
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/464/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 173k
Titre Figure 3. The location of selected businesses with decleration of type of businesses. Besides the Norwegian cities of Halden and Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg are marked.
Légende Note: One business is not marked as the activities are located to many places.
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/464/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 63k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Sten Lorentzon, « The extension of sophisticated broadband and regional competitiveness – the case of västra götaland in Sweden », Netcom, 24-1/2 | 2010, 27-46.

Référence électronique

Sten Lorentzon, « The extension of sophisticated broadband and regional competitiveness – the case of västra götaland in Sweden », Netcom [En ligne], 24-1/2 | 2010, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2013, consulté le 20 juillet 2017. URL : http://netcom.revues.org/464 ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.464

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Auteur

Sten Lorentzon

Prof. at Department of Human and Economic Geography, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg. E-mail: sten.lorentzon@geography.gu.se

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Netcom – Réseaux, communication et territoires est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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