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Polar Connect

polar connect

A Northern European initiative to obtain secure and resilient connectivity through the Arctic to Asia and North America for Research, Development, Innovation and Education.

All R&E sectors are facing a data explosion, which means a rapidly increasing demand for efficient data infrastructures. Likewise the global lockdowns and remote education once more demonstrated the significance of digital infrastructures. In addition to addressing the increased capacity needs of existing intercontinental collaborations, Polar Connect will spur new innovative collaboration models and support the rapid ongoing digital transformation.

The Arctic route from Europe to Asia and North America

NORDUnet and the Nordic NRENs are looking into a number of initiatives to investigate and planning the first submarine cable system between Europe, Asia, and North America to secure a shorter route through the Arctic Ocean. An area so far without any submarine cable systems, yet offering this unique route that will dramatically increase resilience of the connectivity.

Two different specific solutions are being investigated. A direct route passing under the ice cap of the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean, just North-East of Greenland. And an alternative route through the North-West Passage between Greenland and Canada. A submarine cable system passing close to the North Pole via Exclusive Economic Zones would be shorter and thereby minimize latency, however, also more complex in terms of technology and thereby somewhat further into the future. We call this Vision 2030.

Major European involvement in these initiatives will substantially strengthen European digital autonomy. By being early partners in such initiatives, we aim to secure capacity owned and managed by the research and education communities, adding huge benefits in terms of cost, bandwidth and latency. The ultimate goal of Polar Connect is to have at least two such routes for increased resilience.

Europe should not become an island in the digital ocean. Implementing the vision of the European Data Gateways Declaration means taking control of Europe’s digital destiny. The Northern European Digital Gateway is a cornerstone in securing Europe’s digital autonomy and sovereignty, as it promotes new and redundant paths towards Asia and North America through the Arctic area.

Polar Connect will be a strategic investment into fundamental digital infrastructure that will support and advance regional development of the Nordics and Northern Europe. Additionally, it will connect all of the European R&E networks and thus support European Research, Development, Innovation and Education sectors, as well as it will contribute to European post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

The report The Economic Value of Submarine Cables in the Arctic  from Copenhagen Economics highlights the benefits of submarine cable systems through the Arctic region; Such systems will bring resilience, mitigate digital congestion, improve sustainability, and induce more than 1 billion EUR worth of economic benefits to the Nordic region.

The report looks into the societal and economic dividends from such investments which could be large. The report was commissioned by NORDUnet and the five Nordic national research and education networks (NRENs).

Close to 90 % of Europe’s Internet traffic takes place through the connections which link London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Paris. Alternative routes are badly needed to prevent congestion, reduce latency, and increase resilience, not least since the world’s total Internet traffic continues to double every three years. Notably, an increasing amount of the traffic is intercontinental, for instance between Europe and Asia.

Focus on Data Centres and Green Energy

Besides greatly enhanced digital resilience, a further advantage is improved sustainability. The Nordic countries hold ample renewable energy resources. Examples are hydro power (Norway, Sweden, Finland), wind power (Denmark, Sweden, Norway), geothermal power (Iceland), and tidal/wave power (Norway and others).

The demand for renewable low-carbon energy is constantly growing in Europe. It will always be cheaper and more efficient to move as much consumption as possible closer to where the energy production takes place. To host data centres in the North is efficient as it is more efficient to move bits than energy. However, this can only be done if these data centres are well-connected to both Europe and other world regions.

The Copenhagen economics report also points to  other societal benefits, leading to a significant GDP boost in the region:  “There will be new jobs associated with the location of data centres and associated support services, but more importantly, the improved connectivity associated with a strengthened network from the Nordic region will provide new local business opportunities and increased productivity and trade (…) We estimate that an Arctic cable, for example, to Japan, could boost GDP in the Nordic region by more than EUR 1 billion annually if fully utilized.”

Read the report

You can learn more about the report here, or you can download the entire report from the Copenhagen Economics website.

The Northern EU Gateways project gives a boost to the Polar Connect initiative led by NORDUnet by investigating the shorter route options for subsea cables through the Arctic Ocean. The Project will develop a vision for the year 2030 for the North Atlantic and Arctic section of the Digital Global Gateway, fostering the Arctic region as the important area of the digital shift for Europe.

Read more at the project website.

The North Pole Fiber project (22-EU-DIG-NPF) is doing preparatory work for Polar Connect – a global project for establishing subsea fiber cables between Europe, Asia and North America.

Polar Connect aims to ensure digital communication between Europe and East Asia. To achieve this, a subsea cable will be established through the Arctic Ocean from Northern Europe to Japan and South Korea

North Pole Fiber is important in establishing resilient fiber routes in Northern Sweden, from Kiruna to the Norwegian border, to be extended to the Arctic Ocean coast where Polar Connect will land. Learn more about the project from the project website, such as facts about the project, news and activities.

Moreover, North Pole FIber is investigating possibilities for equipping the cable with sensors in order to make the cable an instrument for Arctic research and environmental monitoring. This could enable continuous measurement of environmental parameters in one of the least investigated areas of Earth – the deep ocean under the Arctic ice sheet.

The  Polar Connect will in a later stage connect Europe, Asia and North America, providing us state-of-the-art data connectivity along the shortest route, avoiding the challenges presented by conflicts along traditional routes, such as the Suez Canal, Red Sea and the Strait of Malacca. 


The North Pole Fiber project runs for 36 months, from January 1st  2024 until December 31st 2026.

Project Partners

The Swedish Research Council/Sunet, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and NORDUnet collaborate on the North Pole Fiber project, which the European Union co-finances.


Official project website:

Learn more about the global Polar Connect project: och

Disclaimer – The North Pole Fiber Project is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or HaDEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

[Project Acronym: 22-EU-DIG-NPF]

On 7 September 2023, the Polar Connection Vision 2030 webinars delved deeper into the latest insights shaping the future of one of the four sections of the European Data Gateways, namely the North Atlantic and Arctic section.

Highlights from the webinars include exploration of arguments underpinning the necessity for a resilient submarine cable system in the Arctic Ocean, and the actual feasibility of this ambitious endeavour. Distinguished speakers illustrated how the Arctic route offers the potential to improve and secure backbone connectivity for Europe and our partners in Asia and North America. To this should be added, the multiple benefits and opportunities such a route will offer to the scientific community.

The perspectives and insights shared during the webinars are invaluable contribution shaping the future of Arctic Connectivity.

To accommodate participants from various time zones, it was possible to choose between two different timeslots. This ensured that attendees could conveniently join and engage with the panellists, regardless of their geographical location.

We are immensely grateful to the participants of the Polar Connect Vision 2030 webinars for joining and look forward to further collaborative efforts in advancing the Arctic Connectivity.

Below please find links to the presentations from both timeslots

Session at 08:30 a.m. CEST (UTC+2)

Session at 4:30 p.m. CEST (UTC+2)

Stay tuned for more updates as we embark on this ambitious journey together.

On May 5 2023, Sweden’s Research and Innovation Office in Brussels (SWERI) held a breakfast seminar presenting Polar Connect, a new Nordic initiative to establish a secure, resilient and shortest possible data connection between Europe and the Asian Pacific for the benefit of trade, security and science.

The seminar, moderated by Dr. Ellenor Devine, Head of Office (Research), SWERI, featured five presentations:

NPF the first step of the Polar Connect visionValter Nordh, CEO of NORDUnet

The economic value of submarine cables in the Arctic  – Dr. Bruno Basalisco, Copenhagen Economics

Viability of crossing the North Pole with a submarine cableProf. Katarina Gårdfeldt, Director General, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat

The need for scientific observations in the ArcticProf. Stein Sandven, Nansen Environmental and remote sensing center, Bergen Norway

Research using the North Pole Fibre infrastructureProf. Martin Landrø, Department of Electronic Systems, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

The full recording of the seminar is available above, below are separate videos of each presenter in a playlist.


In October 2022, NORDUnet hosted a Polar Connectivity Webinar focusing on fibre connectivity between Japan and the EU. The speakers of the webinar convey their expertise and share views from European and Japan perspectives.

The webinar, moderated by NORDUnet COO Jørgen Qvist, featured three presentations on polar connectivity:

  • Nordic NRENs Vision 2030 – Valter Nordh, NORDUnet
  • The economic value of submarine cables in the Arctic  – Sigurd Næss-Schmidt, Copenhagen Economics
  • Japanese view on Japan(Asia)-EU connectivity, datacenters and regional development  – Jun Murai, WIDE project

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion where the speakers where joined by three industry experts to exchange views on the known and planned international connectivity projects from the Nordic-Arctic region and their impact. The panellists were:

The webinar was recorded and the recording is available above.

Nordic NREN Vision 2030: This is the all-encompassing vision that includes the connectivity, green datacenters, support for local communities and research (Arctic, climate, marine biology etc.). These aspects are all covered in the Copenhagen Economics report.
The connectivity part of the vision currently involve the Far North Fiber and the Polar Connect fiber.

Polar Connect (previously POLAR-CONNECT):
is the fiber project with a route that will be from Norway to Svalbard, north of Greenland to North America and onwards to Asia. The cable route will be inside the exclusive economic zones of “friendly” countries. The cable is intended to be a hybrid cable that will support generic telecommunications connectivity, as well as supporting research
using smart cable technologies. This does present a number of additional challenges with regards to regulatory, security and permissions. The cable is intended to be deployed 2028-2030, as it need to align with funding cycles and the above-mentioned challenges needs to be resolved. The project is currently not in a stage where further information with regards to partners, potential customers and specific landings can be shared.

This is an old idea developed by Bjørn Rønning, taking the optimal route over the North Pole. This is currently not feasible give the current geopolitical situation as it involves a route the traverses charted territory.

Gravity North:
a trend/tendency of establishing data centres in the North of Europe where there is free cooling, cheaper sustainable electricity.

North Pole Fiber
: The North Pole Fiber Project (22-EU-DIG-NPF) prepares the ground for “Polar Connect” – a new and direct fiber optic connection between the European Union and Asia.

Within the North Pole Fiber project, we will establish redundant connectivity from the European Union to a future Polar Connect landing site in northern Norway.
The North Pole Fiber Project is an important contribution to Polar Connect by establishing fiber connections inside Sweden, i.e. between Kiruna and the Norwegian Border.

The project will also explore the option of an additional and/or alternative route from Asia and Northern America directly to the EU with a potential landing site in Southern Sweden or Denmark.

EU Projects
· CEF Digital Call 1 – Northern EU Gateways – The joint funded project with Cinia and
· CEF Digital Call 2 – North Pole Fiber – The proposed project to build a cable from Luleå to Svaldbard. Should be seen as a stepping stone towards POLAR-CONNECT