Models for Infrastructure Sharing: Sweden’s Stokab

Editor’s Note: This Practice Note is an excerpt from a discussion paper entitled Extending Open Access to National Fibre Backbones in Developing Countries prepared by Dr. Tracy Cohen and Russell Southwood for the 8th ITU Global Symposium for Regulators[1].

Stokab: Sweden

The Stokab system was founded in 1994 and is owned by Stockholms Stadshus AB, which is in turn owned by the City of Stockholm. In its own words, Stokab was established “to promote economic growth and thereby stimulate the telecom market and ICT development in the Stockholm region, particularly in the City of Stockholm.”[2]  The impetus for its launch was a government bill that called for moving “‘from an IT policy for society to a policy for an IT society.”  The legislation set an objective for Sweden to achieve a “sustainable information society for all.”’[3]

In practical terms, Stokab initially filled the gap left by the historic incumbent’s refusal to provide fibre capacity after liberalization.  Stokab made a strategic decision to offer the market only dark fibre -- the asset that is most difficult to replicate.  Stokab left the provision of services to the new telecommunications companies that leased the dark fibre. This decision was a guiding principle of the company.

Stokab’s core tasks are to build, operate and maintain the fibre optic communication network in the Stockholm region and to lease out fibre optic connections. The company is competitively neutral, providing a network open to all service providers on equal terms.  Stokab also helps facilitate the rollout of wireless infrastructure and drives broadband market growth in the Stockholm region.

This formal description, however, understates the key strategic role Stokab has played across Sweden.  Once established, the company expanded its network into 27 surrounding municipalities. It has also co-operated with Nordic and Baltic neighbors on fibre links, enabling Stockholm to become a regional ICT hub. The company also operates the City of Stockholm’s internal networks, which are used for both administrative purposes and for public services such as education, childcare, recreation and cultural offerings. The City of Stockholm sees Stokab as a provider of “public service on commercial terms.”

When Stokab began its network rollout in 1994, it initially concentrated on the central business district before building out to other commercial areas and eventually to residential neighborhoods in the surrounding suburbs.[4]  Its network now has 5,600 kilometres of cable.  After Stokab built its fibre backbone over the entire area, a question arose concerning whether wireless broadband access capacity could spur more competition.  Stokab secured an authorization for broadband wireless spectrum, which it offered to small/medium enterprise (SME) providers in the more rural part of its area.  Progress on the wireless initiative has been stalled, however, partly for internal reasons but also because technologies like WiMAX have not yet been widely brought to the market.  Furthermore, asynchronous digital subscriber line (ADSL) service is now available on an unbundled basis in standard wireline networks, lowering the entry costs for any competitor wanting to grab market share.



[1] For more information about the GSR, see www.itu.int/ITU-D/treg/Events/Seminars/GSR/index.html;
Direct link to GSR Discussion Papers 2008 at: www.itu.int/ITU-D/treg/Events/Seminars/GSR/GSR08/papers.html

[3] Government Bill 2004/05:175

[4] To achieve remote meter reading for different household services.

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