Swipnet becomes Sweden's first commercial internet service provider
The state-owned phone company turns it down, preferring X.25 over the internet. Instead Jan Stenbeck's Comvik Skyport gets the question, and Swipnet becomes Sweden's first commercial internet service provider.
The organization Swedish Network Users' Society (SNUS) takes the initiative. The first solution is called Guerillanet (later Basnät 90) and is supposed to be run by enthusiasts. But soon they realize a better solution is needed, and discussions are held between SNUS and the state-owned phone company.
SNUS recommends TCP/IP, with its decentralized model, which is the opposite of how telecommunications are run by the state until that point. Televerket, the state-owned phone company prefers the X.25 technology, where they can maintain control over communications. And thus ends the discussions, and there is to be no state-owned network.
Jan Stenbeck gets the question and goes for it
So the question goes to the commercial side, and specifically to Jan Stenbeck's company Comvik Skyport. That it is him and nobody else who gets asked takes some explaining. Jan Stenbeck has at this time made a name for himself as a challenger of government monopolies. Already back in 1979 he started the mobile phone company Millicom, after being inspired by the TV show "Get Smart", where shoes can work as cell phones. Millicom is based in the USA and has as its main business idea to buy different countries' cell phone licenses.
Back home Jan Stenbeck takes command over the family business, Kinnevik, and shifts its focus from paper and steel to telecommunications, media and tech. Through Kinnevik the company Företagstelefon AB is bought, and the name is changed to Comvik. In 1981 the Swedish government gives Comvik permission to automatically connect their calls to the landline phone network, something only the state-run Televerket has been allowed to do before.
A few years later Jan Stenbeck starts Sweden's first commercial TV station "TV 3" and challenges yet another monopoly in Sweden by broadcasting from Great Britain. Comvik (later Tele 2) then paves the way for the mobile revolution.
So when he gets the question to start Sweden's first commercial internet service provider his answer doesn't take long: Yes.
The deal is signed on October 30, 1990 by Bo-Erik Sandholm, chairman of SNUS, and Per Troberg, CEO at Comvik Skyports. The network is to be run by Swipnet AP (Swedish IP Networks), a subsidiary to Comvik Skyport (later Tele 2).
Up until then, customers with Sunet have had free internet connections. Now they suddenly get bills in the mail. Larger corporations can get a monthly bill of 10 000 SEK, and a starting fee of 50 000 SEK. Still, Swipnet is a very small company. The staff fits in a kitchen, and modem pools are installed where they can fit. That happens to be in attics, with friends, and various spaces found around the country.
The Swedish monopolies fall
Sweden is a different country at this time. The government still has a monopoly on modems, and you are not allowed to connect to the government phone network any which way you want. But during these years – accelerated by the Bildt government – the monopolies fall. Televerket becomes Telia. Sweden gets its first commercial TV station on the national airwaves (TV4). And the modems are deregulated.
Swipnet product manager Per-Olof "Poj" Josefsson about the early days
In an interview with Internet Museum, the product manager Per-Olof "POJ" Josefsson tells us about his time at Swipnet. (see a long interview with him here, in Swedish only)
– It was the enthusiasts who ran this, with corresponding quality. But that makes it so we get started. We didn't quite understand how big this would be (the growth of the internet), we were just trying to get the business going.
During the fall of 1991 Swipnet gets competition from Televerket's Tipnet. After three years Swipnet has a positive cash flow, but Swipnet AB is still shut down and becomes part of Tele 2. The name would still live on for customers for many years.