Telecommunications revolution? Enduring problems and possible futures

Guest Editors: Rowan Wilken (RMIT University), James Meese (RMIT University), Catherine Middleton (Toronto Metropolitan University), Fan Yang (RMIT University), Kieran Hegarty (RMIT University).

The telecommunications sector is at a critical juncture. New wireless technologies are being rolled out apace, and promise a new wave of innovation. However, many countries are still struggling to ensure adequate rural and regional coverage, despite significant public investments in fixed broadband. In such a context, the fate of any promised telecommunications revolution is uncertain. This feature topic will explore this moment of change and consider which futures are likely to be realised and which problems will persist.

5G – the next generation of mobile telecommunications technology – offers a useful point of departure for the issue. The implementation of 5G is well underway and promises to vastly improve network speeds and ensure widespread wireless connectivity. These improvements may provide the infrastructure backbone for automated systems in cars, utility grids, homes, cities and farms. Many governments and industries are expecting a new wave of technological development and economic prosperity to follow.

However, these projections may turn out to be much more haphazard than telecommunications companies, governments and other stakeholders suggest. The fact that many citizens cannot access affordable phones and reliable internet coverage, challenges any notion of a seamless transition. The significant increase in speed and the unique character of 5G networks also raises a series of as yet unresolved policy tensions in the telecommunications sector, from net neutrality to the ongoing role of publicly funded fixed-line services. Alongside these long-standing issues, geopolitical tensions surround the technology, with various nations engaging in covert and overt contestations over the development and deployment of these technologies. Knowledge gained from previous mobile phone generations also suggests that the ultimate fate of any promised telecommunications revolution is uncertain.

We invite researchers from across the world to help us better understand how the telecommunications sector is navigating this critical juncture and welcome a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Power dynamics of telecommunications infrastructure (key actors, flows of money, distributions of resources and knowledge).
  • Emerging inequalities/questions of social justice in relation to infrastructural development.
  • National, international, and transnational policy developments/frameworks associated with the 5G rollout.
  • Conceptual, theoretical, or empirical work on mobile standardisation.
  • Contemporary geopolitical tensions around telecommunications.
  • Everyday experiences of media infrastructure.
  • Labour and industries associated with telecommunication infrastructure (and the role of maintenance, care, and repair).
  • Imaginaries and ideologies associated with telecommunications development.
  • Applications and limitations of existing media studies theories for understanding telecommunications infrastructure.

Information about submission

Proposals should include an abstract of 500 words (not including references), short bios and the names of 2 suggested reviewers. Please send proposals to Kieran Hegarty ((kieran.hegarty /at/ ) and cc- James Meese ((james.meese /at/ ) with the subject line: MIA Feature Topic by 3 October 2022.

No payment from the authors will be required for publication.


3 October 2022. Deadline for abstract submission

4 November 2022 Invitations to submit full-length papers sent out

7 April 2023 Deadline to submit full-length paper (7,000 – 8,000 words)

February 2024 Publication