Using mobile data for traffic planning

Where do we travel the most in Norway during a day? Which countries are foreign tourists visiting Norway from? Telenor has developed a new method that securely uses anonymized data from base stations for better community planning.
Pattern of movements across Norway one day during July.

(Fornebu, 8 September 2016) Where do we travel the most in Norway during the day? Which countries are foreign tourists visiting Norway from? Telenor has developed a new method that securely extracts anonymous data from base stations for better community planning.

Telenor’s research department has a team examining how the vast swathes of data generated by Telenor’s mobile network can be used for research and socially beneficial development.

‘The base stations gather enormous volumes of data from traffic on the mobile network. This data allows us to provide multiple sectors with valuable insights and analysis that has never previously been possible,’ says Johannes Bjelland, Senior Research at Telenor’s research department.

Germans and Brits flooding Geiranger
During the course of July, Telenor conducted a test analysis in Geiranger. Based on the statistics about mobile phones connected to Telenor’s base stations in Geiranger, researchers were able to determine that the small community was mostly visited by Germans during July.

‘At one point, there were more than 1500 people from Germany in Geiranger at the same time. The next biggest group visiting behind the Germans were the Brits, while the Swedes came in third,’ explains Bjelland.

He emphasises that this is not personal data that can identify individuals, but rather that it is large volumes of data from the base stations that are anonymized and combined.

The project in area around Geiranger is part of a pilot being conducted with a number of bodies including the Norwegian Environment Agency. Many of Norway’s biggest attractions are in the great outdoors - areas where the flora and fauna are vulnerable and affected by visitors. It is therefore important to understand how visitors use these areas.

‘Information from our base stations makes it possible, for example, to facilitate sustainable tourism. The tourist industry will also be able to use this to find out which tourists are coming, or they can promote Norwegian nature and Geiranger as tourist destinations in countries that are not as well represented,’ says Bjelland.

Movement patterns of 2.3 million Norwegians
On one specific day in July, Telenor’s research department analysed how 2.3 million mobile customers moved between base stations. All the movements were plotted onto a map of Norway, which shows where mobile phones have moved between two areas. The map clearly shows that activity is greatest along major roads. Airline routes are shown as straight lines between cities such as Oslo and Bergen. The data was collected between 17:00 on 27 July and 05:00 on 28 July.

‘Our data provides the basis for studies of transport and journeys in Norway, and we have already established a partnership with the Institute of Transport Economics. The data help us to understand traffic flow, improve traffic solutions and safety, and where society would be best served by investments in roads, train stations and other infrastructure,’ says Ove Fredheim, CMO Business at Telenor.

‘Positional analysis also allows us to see how many mobile phones, on average, move between Asker and Oslo every day. The analysis can find places where extra train stations of bus stops are required, as well as additional buses or other measures that provide better traffic flow during rush hour,’ Fredheim explains.

Basis for exciting new services
Several private companies have long made use of advanced analyses based on big data to adapt marketing of products and services to businesses and individual consumers, but big data can also provide social benefits in the public sector.

‘The police, health services, public authorities and municipalities can benefit from insights derived from big data. The volume of data from anonymized and aggregated activity on the mobile network is huge. As we have explored and dug deeper into the data, we keep finding new usage opportunities, and we think that both the public and private sectors will find this type of big data incredibly useful,’ Fredheim concludes.

  • For data protection purposes, the aggregated data does not contain information about individuals. Instead it includes the total number of travelers between two places, but only on routes where 20 or more mobile phones are plotted.
  • The aggregated data is anonymised and it is not possible to use this method to identify individuals or individual mobile phones.
  • The data used is deleted after 24 hours.

For further information, please contact:
Kristine Meek, PR Manager at Telenor Norway
Tel.: +47 918 85 405, Email: