Contested connections: critically examining the emerging controversy over 5G


5G has been positioned by many policy and industry actors in the UK and beyond as a crucial innovation with the potential to drive economic growth, improve productivity, and render mobile networks environmentally sustainable. However, there are signs that 5G will prove controversial with concerns over public health, infrastructure siting, and security raised by a number of groups.

This project will critically examine these emerging promises and concerns in the UK. The project will ask:

  1. What are the key emerging 5G technologies, applications and rationales? How are policy and regulatory landscapes evolving across Europe? How is deployment unfolding across Europe?
  2. What distinct emerging framings can be identified in the controversy over 5G in the UK?
  3. What promises, expectations and imaginaries are shaping the development of 5G in the UK? To what extent are these commitments publicly accountable?
  4. How do the ‘knowledge politics’ of 5G unfold in the UK? How is expert credibility established and challenged? What role does the public play?

Research Approach

The project will employ a range of methods, including Q-method, stakeholder interviews, and a large-scale document analysis.

The project will involve:

  • A broad scoping review of the emerging academic literature, technical features, policy landscape, and deployment progress.
  • A Q-method study of emerging stakeholder perspectives. Q-method is a powerful tool in the mapping of controversies because it enables the quantitative mapping of framings around a particular issue.
  • An interpretative discourse analysis of future-oriented discursive practices on 5G.
  • An analysis of the knowledge politics of 5G.

The research findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal articles and accessible policy briefs aimed at a range of stakeholders.

Further Information

This is an Early Career Fellowship awarded to Dr Laurence Williams by the Leverhulme Trust.