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The Strategic National Infrastructure Assessment of Digital Communications


  • Edward Oughton

    (Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge)


This paper provides a compendium of the key issues currently facing digital communications and reviews their relevance for the UK's National Infrastructure Assessment of digital infrastructure. The methodology focuses on taking a horizon scanning approach to obtaining current information from a range of authoritative decision-makers across industry, government and academia. After structuring the issues identified, these areas were examined in detail by a multi-disciplinary research team covering engineering, economics and computer science. The key finding shows that future demand uncertainty is the major issue affecting the digital communications sector and holding back increased investment. Moreover, this uncertainty is being driven primarily by the relatively rigid willingness to pay of end-users, the shift from fixed to wireless forms of access, and the ongoing convergence in digital applications and services. The key contribution of this paper is not just to illustrate the issues and trends within the digital communications sector, but also to identify the need for more research to understand how the sensitivity of future demand affects infrastructure performance and cost under different demographic, economic and technical scenarios.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward Oughton, 2018. "The Strategic National Infrastructure Assessment of Digital Communications," Working Papers 2017/02 (revised), Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:jbs:wpaper:201702r

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mattia Nardotto & Tommaso Valletti & Frank Verboven, 2015. "Unbundling The Incumbent: Evidence From Uk Broadband," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 330-362, April.
    2. Catherine Middleton, 2012. "Broadband as infrastructure," Competition & Regulation Times 373605, New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation.
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    1. Sergii Kolodynskyi & Tetiana Drakokhrust & Maryna Bashynska, 2018. "The Innovative Infrastructure Of Economic Development In The Framework Of International Digital Transformation," Baltic Journal of Economic Studies, Publishing house "Baltija Publishing", vol. 4(4).
    2. Edward Oughton, 2021. "Policy options for digital infrastructure strategies: A simulation model for broadband universal service in Africa," Papers 2102.03561,
    3. Oughton,Edward J. & Comini,Niccolo & Foster,Vivien & Hall,Jim W., 2021. "Policy Choices Can Help Keep 4G and 5G Universal Broadband Affordable," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9563, The World Bank.
    4. Edward J Oughton & Niccol`o Comini & Vivien Foster & Jim W Hall, 2021. "Policy choices can help keep 4G and 5G universal broadband affordable," Papers 2101.07820,, revised Feb 2021.
    5. Philip Chen & Edward J Oughton & Pete Tyler & Mo Jia & Jakub Zagdanski, 2020. "Evaluating the impact of next generation broadband on local business creation," Papers 2010.14113,
    6. Edward J. Oughton & Ashutosh Jha, 2021. "Supportive 5G Infrastructure Policies are Essential for Universal 6G: Assessment using an Open-source Techno-economic Simulation Model utilizing Remote Sensing," Papers 2102.08086,, revised Jun 2021.
    7. Gerli, Paolo & Whalley, Jason, 2021. "Fibre to the countryside: A comparison of public and community initiatives tackling the rural digital divide in the UK," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(10).
    8. Oughton, Edward J. & Comini, Niccolò & Foster, Vivien & Hall, Jim W., 2022. "Policy choices can help keep 4G and 5G universal broadband affordable," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 176(C).

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