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Home* News and Stories → Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on break­down in Spits­ber­gen

Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on break­down in Spits­ber­gen

It was a drastic expe­ri­ence which made pret­ty clear how remo­te and poten­ti­al­ly vul­nerable the com­mu­nities in Spits­ber­gen still are: on Mon­day, almost 2 weeks ago (02 June), the com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and the out­side world bro­ke com­ple­te­ly down for a cou­p­le of hours.

Some years ago, fib­re cables bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and Nor­way have repla­ced ear­lier com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on sys­tems. The need to trans­fer lar­ge data volu­mes that come from satel­li­te anten­nas near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (Sval­Sat, the white balls on Pla­tå­ber­get abo­ve the air­port) to cus­to­mers inclu­ding ESA and NASA has made the cables necessa­ry.

The high tech­no­lo­gy super­fast con­nec­tion fai­led com­ple­te­ly on said Mon­day: the who­le traf­fic bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and the rest of the world went down for several hours becau­se of a pro­blem in a relay sta­ti­on in Ande­nes (Ves­terå­len, north Nor­way), whe­re the fib­re cable reaches the main­land. The who­le tech­ni­cal infra­st­ruc­tu­re is dou­ble to com­pen­sa­te for tech­ni­cal pro­blems with parts of the sys­tem, but this time, the who­le thing was dead for a while.

This did not just cut Lon­gye­ar­by­ens inha­bi­tants off from tele­pho­ne and inter­net, but it made it impos­si­ble to reach poli­ce, res­cue ser­vices and other vital ser­vices and infra­st­ruc­tu­re and it lar­ge­ly shut down inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on wit­hin the­se bodies. The hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en reli­es on com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on with the uni­ver­si­ty hos­pi­tal in Trom­sø and the con­stant avai­la­bi­li­ty of air trans­port of pati­ents to main­land Nor­way in dif­fi­cult cases. Satel­li­te pho­nes were quick­ly put into use, but they requi­re a view to the sky without any obst­ruc­tions, which does not exact­ly app­ly to a medi­cal doctor’s work place. Plus, the­re are many of them in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and also this line of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on tur­ned out unab­le to ser­ve the amount of traf­fic: it was at times sim­ply impos­si­ble to get through. Even in nor­mal times, satel­li­te pho­nes are not exact­ly reli­able.

The pro­blem was sol­ved after a few hours, but it made the poten­ti­al for dis­as­ter qui­te clear. Espe­cial­ly repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of vital infra­st­ruc­tu­re and public ser­vices such as poli­ce, res­cue ser­vice and hos­pi­tal made it clear that the avai­la­bi­li­ty of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on is of high impor­t­ance for public safe­ty and health.

Tele­nor, the Nor­we­gi­an pro­vi­der of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on ser­vices and infra­st­ruc­tu­re, is now working with aut­ho­ri­ties to make sure this does not hap­pen again. But the­re is now tal­king about lea­ving some of the good old land­li­ne pho­nes in place. Lon­gye­ar­by­en, becau­se of its size, tech­ni­cal infra­st­ruc­tu­re and poli­ti­cal cir­cum­s­tan­ces a very modern place, is inten­ded to be one of the first pla­ces in Nor­way without a land­li­ne pho­ne sys­tem, whe­re all com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on is based on a mobi­le grid. The recent inci­dent will be part of this deba­te, that’s for sure.

Works always: fire- and explo­si­on-pro­of pho­ne in Bar­ents­burg. The pro­blem is, you won’t get far with it …

Telephone, Barentsburg

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (1): Spitz­ber­gen – vom Polar­licht bis zur Mit­ter­nachts­son­ne”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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