Norway - Infrastructure, power, and communications

The quality of the Norwegian transportation infrastructure is quite good, although its high mountains and deeply cut valleys and fjords combined with a severe northern climate make inland transportation difficult during the winter months. Railroads are located mostly in the south while most of the northern regions are accessible only by ship, car, or aircraft. The importance the government attaches to regional issues and to investments in transport and communications is significant since many tunnels, bridges, and ferryboat services are indispensable in many parts of the country.

In 1999, the road network totaled 90,741 kilometers (57,000 miles), the majority being concentrated in the more populated areas, especially in and around Oslo. The 4,023 kilometer-long railroad system is also concentrated in the south of the country, connecting Oslo with the larger towns, notably Bergen and Stavanger, and leading to neighboring Sweden. A high-speed railroad connects the new international airport at Gardemoen with downtown

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Norway 588 915 579 160.1 474 50.0 373.4 754.15 2,000
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Sweden 445 932 531 221.4 464 50.9 361.4 581.47 3,666
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Oslo. The state railroad company, Norges Statsbaner, also provides local commuter services in the urbanized areas of Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim.

Air transport is very popular and there are 58 airports in the country, 22 of which are the properties of the state. In the 1990s, sizeable public investment was invested in modernizing the larger airports, and in 1998 a new international airport opened at Gardemoen, 50 kilometers north of the capital. The new air terminal, conceived as a showcase for the country's new oil prosperity, had severe financial problems in its first year of service and the plans for a second terminal have been suspended for the time being. The government (along with Sweden and Denmark) holds a 29 percent stake in the pan-Scandinavian air company Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS). SAS is partnering with, among others, Lufthansa (Germany), New Zealand Air, and United Airlines (U.S.) to form the Star Alliance, competing successfully in the global aviation markets. There are also a number of smaller private Norwegian airlines, the best known of which is the Braathens, serving both domestic and international destinations.

Norway relies on shipping as a vital component of its transportation system. Ports are securely built, and there are many ice-free harbors on the coastline. The west and north coasts from Bergen to the Russian border form an important international shipping route for passengers and cargo from the Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean, and many ferry lines carry automobiles from Norway to Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Dependence on local ferryboat services remains very significant, including in the Oslo and Bergen urban areas.

Norway is still one of the foremost shipping nations in the world, and it offers extensive shipping and shipbuilding services, notably ship owning, brokerage, and shipyards. Norwegian merchant shipping companies own some 10 percent of the world's total fleet, and the fleet of offshore service ships is the world's second-largest in tonnage due mostly to the country's huge oil and gas industry. Norway is especially influential in the sphere of specialized and complex vessels, as Norwegian companies, among other things, control about 25 percent of the world's passenger cruise boats and close to 20 percent of all the world's chemical tankers and gas carriers.

Norway's energy production, as well as its usage per capita, ranks steadily among the highest in the world. Industry (especially the very energy-intensive aluminum and ferro-alloy industries) consumes 66 percent of all energy. Norway is one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world, yet hydropower accounts for almost all electricity generation. About 60 percent of all exploitable water resources have already been utilized. Other renewable energy sources in the country are rather limited, and there is a single atomic power plant which has not yet been used for large-scale electricity generation. The domestic energy market was deregulated in 1991, boosting the already significant competition for large power consumers. Power is now sold by the utilities directly to the large-scale users or is instead traded on the NordPool, a fully developed international electricity market, covering Norway, Sweden, and Finland, the first one of its kind in Europe. Domestic electricity production, however, has been insufficient to meet rising demand, forcing Norway to import energy, mostly from Denmark. Over the 1990s, Norway planned to construct 2 new gas power plants in the west, but the debate over the increased pollution from these literally brought down one of the previous governments. The cabinet in office in 2001 supports the plans but still has to offset strong public opposition. It is also considering other possibilities, however, such as recycled and renewable energy sources, and plans to sharply curb electricity consumption.

Norway's telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most developed in the world, with a complete digitization of the telephone network. The number of fast Internet connections, such as Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) subscriptions, is rising very rapidly, reaching around 460,000 in 1999. Norway is a world leader in the development and use of mobile phone technologies. In 1999, the number of mobile phone lines surpassed that of the fixed ones, the former amounting to 2.6 million compared with 2.3 million for the latter. This rapid development comes partly from the country's liberalized telecommunications market, which has been open to foreign competition since 1998. Despite this competition, the state-owned telecommunications group, Telenor, has managed to maintain a large share of the market. Attempts to merge the group with its Swedish counterpart, Telia, were aborted in late 1999, forcing the government to consider alternative plans. In 2000, the Norwegian government said it would privatize between 15 percent and 25 percent of Telenor in 2001, reducing its holding to 51 percent of the company.

Electronic commerce and use of the Internet are also on the rise and by 2000, 63 percent of the Norwegians had access to the Internet and about 340,000 customers bought goods and services online every month.

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