Beyond the Pipe - Digitalization and the Changing Configuration of Telecommunications Production Networks

Authors: Jacen Tan*, National University Of Singapore
Topics: Economic Geography, Communication
Keywords: global production networks, digitalization, telecommunications
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Telecommunications lie at the core of the global economy. While extant research have expounded upon the locational patterns of communications infrastructure and their impact on regional development, other industries, urban space and everyday life, less has been said about the multi-scalar and multi-actor production networks that govern systems of telecommunication services, especially in the current era of digitalization. Indeed, the circulation of information does not occur autonomously, but are ably organised by profit-seeking and geographically-embedded actors even as they evolved from co-operating national monopolies furnishing a restricted range of services to a competitive market with players of many types and sizes offering a wide range of services. Employing a global production network (GPN) lens, this paper seeks to address this lacuna by asking and answering two questions. How has digitalization reshaped the organisational and geographical configurations of the telecommunications industry? And how have traditional service providers re-strategized and repositioned themselves in the face of such a changing economic landscape. In response to the former, the paper sheds light on the broad bandwidth of actors involved in the provision of contemporary telecommunications, the shifting power relations between these actors, and how such relations are redrawing existing maps of the telecommunications industry. With regards to the latter, the paper draws upon the case of Singapore to excavate how telecommunications service providers are negotiating and adapting to the challenges of digitalization, as well as the ways in which such strategies are spatially conditioned and constrained by place-based industry structures and regulatory frameworks.

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