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Provision of digital infrastructures: investment, regulation and innovation (Advert Reference: RDF19/BL/EIS/WHALLEY)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The telecommunications industry is on the cusp of another wave of technological change. As progress is being made with the standardisation of 5G, governments around the world have licensed spectrum and mobile operators are being to trial the technology. With regards to fixed technologies, fibre is being deployed as we move towards a ‘gigabyte society’.

Technological change is accompanied by opportunities and challenges. 5G and fibre promise to extend and enhance the extensive socio-economic benefits that widespread mobile and broadband infrastructure bring. These benefits are diverse, ranging from savings through buying online to being better informed and new innovations through sharing data. Furthermore, it is widely believed that these new technologies will facilitate new economic opportunities - 5G is central to the Internet of Things, enabling the widespread transfer of large amounts of data whose analysis will underpin future innovative activity.

Whether firms invest in 5G and fibre is determined by the complex and dynamic interplay between the sector’s regulatory regime, infrastructure costs and the business model(s) adopted. While some argue that 5G will support innovative products and services like autonomous vehicles, others disagree arguing that the technology is unproven and markets illusionary. And fibre is increasingly a costly ‘pipe’ costly provided by telecommunication operators while content and equipment companies –Facebook, Google, Netflix – capture more of the sector’s value.

This project will focus on the interplay between regulation, investment and innovation within the context of the EU’s regulatory regime. Through exploring the business models adopted by firms with respect to 5G and fibre within the context of the sector’s ecosystem, the project will shed light on those factors that influence investment decisions with 5G and fibre being treated as related phenomenon. Inherent tensions will be identified, and the relationship between actors and drivers modelled throughout the sector’s ecosystem.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF19/BL/EIS/WHALLEY) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019
Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa).


Asimakopoulos, G. and J. Whalley (2017) Financial performance of European mobile telecommunication companies, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Vol.123, October, pages 57-67

Briglauer, W., Stocker, V. and J. Whalley (2018) Public policy for high-speed broadband in the EU: The role of technological neutrality, Towards a digital future: Turning technology into markets? 29th European regional conference of the International Telecommunications Society, 1st – 3rd August

Curwen, P. and J. Whalley (2014) Mobile Telecommunications Networks: Restructuring in Response to the New Global Economy, Edward Elgar, Chichester, UK

El-Moghazi, M., Whalley, J. and J Irvine (2017) International spectrum management regime: is gridlock blocking flexible spectrum property rights? Digital Policy, Regulation & Governance, Vol.19 (2), pages 1-13

Volker, S. and J. Whalley (2018) Speed isn’t everything - A multi-criteria analysis of broadband access speeds in the UK, Telecommunications Policy, Vol.42 (1), pages 1-14

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