Being ambitious and bold with mobile helped put the city of Helsingborg on the world map and made it a model for others to follow. Today, delegations from around the world travel here to learn how this city of some 97,000 inhabitants was able to expand their mobility services to fast and seemingly effortlessly.
They began with an uncompromising vision: skipping past all the advice of conventional studies and risk analyses and instead rolling-out a wireless network city-wide, that would be free to use for everyone. By choosing this route, there were three major benefactors: tourism, business development and democracy.
With tourism, visitors to this city in western Scania gained an instantly positive experience of the city. For businesses, they gained the ability to work wherever they want in the city. And democratic traditions here also were able to thrive as citizens gained new ways to participate in the democratic discourse.
Making 100% delivery a reality
To turn this vision into reality, the city partnered with Atea to coordinate, design, implement and set up this ambitious wireless network: a decision that resulted in 100% delivery, on time. That the project rollout happened so quickly is to the joint credit of having a clear vision matched with a partner skilled at successful execution. As Atea Helsingborg Site Manager Eric Åkerström explains: “Helsingborg had a very clear vision and knew exactly what kind of benefits the network should bring. We worked closely together during the process and we still do.”
All projects come with unique challenges. Helsingborg IT Development Manager Jukka Heino explains what his city had to tackle with this mobile rollout: “We benefited from our existing investment and used our existing infrastructure, but here’s what was our greatest challenge: to not compete with commercial businesses such as cafés or networks in residential buildings. It took time to design the network so that we only kept to squares, parks and parking spots.”
Common ground was found. The local Competition Authority (Konkurrensverket) and the Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) announced they had no objection to municipalities offering free wireless networks.
The project provided a valuable learning experience. As IT Operations Manager Ann Heino points out: “My main advice to municipalities who wish to offer wireless networks is to ensure they're founded on a stable infrastructure. They should also consider coordinating the network's operation and maintenance with other municipal networks or letting an outside party handle the task.”
Security is an important issue in the context of mobile connectivity, so Helsingborg only allows network traffic between people, not between nodes or servers. This also helps prevent illegal file sharing and other activities that could otherwise compromise the city-wide mobile experience.
For Helsingborg, finding new services and solutions for the wireless network is very important. Says Heino: “We have 50 people who are dedicated to working on this issue. Soon, we will start using a hybrid cloud solution so that we can work safely wherever we are. We are even expanding our wireless network so that all schools and city facilities get full coverage.”
Five mobile hubs in Helsingborg
1. Gröningen: As large as twelve football fields, this popular area is located beside the Öresund seaside promenade. It's a popular outdoor spot with many young people who benefit from using the city’s digital network.
2. Mäster Palms plaza: Featuring outdoor seating in the summer and serving as host of various music events, this Söder district plaza is in a socially vulnerable area. Thus it benefits greatly from having a free wireless network.
3. Schools and sports halls: One of the many advantages of having the wireless network available in all schools became evident during the 2014 Eskils Cup football tournament. The guests' most common positive reviews were about having access to the city’s open network.
4. Gustav Adolfs square: As host of the farmers' markets, access to free wireless service means more vendors can offer credit card and mobile payment options.
5. Stortorget: The Town Hall, where the council holds its meetings, can be found at this square. It's simple to follow the discussions in real time on mobile or computer via the wireless network. This added level of connectivity helps boost democratic traditions, long cherished by Swedish society.
Adapted from original post on Atea.se