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Digital communications and information systems

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Edward Oughton, Professor Cliff JonesORCiD, Razgar Ebrahimy


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© Cambridge University Press 2016. Introduction: Digital communications and information systems infrastructure is comprised of a variety of communication and computation systems which provide the transmission, processing and storage of digital information. This includes: (i) legacy and fibre-optic cable networks; (ii) mobile, satellite and wireless networks; and (iii) data storage and processing centres. The acronym ICT is often used to describe these systems, though in other contexts ICT can refer to a much broader class of information and communications technologies. Here we use the shorthand ICT to refer to digital communications and information infrastructure systems. In comparison to other physical infrastructure sectors, ICT is relatively new and very rapidly evolving, so is less completely understood from a system-of-systems perspective. ICT infrastructure has become increasingly embedded in nearly all economic and social activities, including for operation of other infrastructure networks. Because of the complexity and rapid innovation in ICT systems, their future is highly uncertain and analysing the systems’ prospective direction is challenging. Yet, issues surrounding digital connectivity are high on the global policy agenda. In many advanced economies in Europe, North America and beyond, significant increases in ICT capacity have been delivered by inducing competition within industry combined with a light-touch, market-led regulatory approach. Innovation has provided new technologies and has helped serve growing consumer demand, which is itself largely driven by innovations in consumer technologies and business practices. Globally, the telecommunications sector has increased dramatically over the past decade to serve almost three billion Internet users, amounting to over 40% of the world's population (ITU, 2014a). Investment in competitive markets by network operators is underpinned by analysis comparing prospective revenues with investment costs (Tselekounis and Varoutas, 2013) so is determined by population density, topology and the capital cost of new technologies (Gotz, 2013). Population density is an important factor in serving local telecommunication markets because, like other infrastructure systems, large fixed-capital investments need to be spread over many consumers with the purchasing power to acquire service subscriptions. However, if left to its own devices the market would likely be considered to be socially unjust and not provide all the potential welfare benefits, as the majority of investment would likely flow into pockets of dense, wealthy and well-educated urban areas. This would particularly leave remote rural or other uneconomically viable locations at a severe disadvantage.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Oughton EJ, Tran M, Jones CB, Ebrahimy R

Editor(s): Jim W. Hall, Martino Tran, Adrian J. Hickford, Robert J. Nicholls

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Future of National Infrastructure: A System-of-Systems Approach

Year: 2016

Pages: 181-202

Online publication date: 01/02/2016

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Place Published: Cambridge


DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107588745.010

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781107588745