Building a Digital Twin: Testing the Effectiveness of Telecommunication Policies in a Virtual World

31 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2018 Last revised: 20 Sep 2018

See all articles by Edward Oughton

Edward Oughton

George Mason University; University of Oxford

Date Written: March 15, 2018


Infrastructure decision-making is challenging due to high levels of future uncertainty. Indeed, when considering broadband coverage, we are also faced with a situation where operators are reluctant to share data, there are few existing open-source evaluation models, and most available tools cannot be used by non-technical users. Transparency is sometimes low. Often disagreements arise between operators, regulators and other actors, with little independent assessment of key issues. Consequently, this paper proposes the development of a Digital Twin as a virtual test-bed for evaluating telecommunication policies. The concept of a Digital Twin has been common for several years in aerospace engineering, since first proposed by NASA in 2010. The vision defined in this paper is for a Digital Twin to be a virtual engineering-economic representation of a real-world telecommunication network, whereby simulation techniques allow exploration of potential future states under different policy conditions. A Digital Twin is developed for the British incumbent’s fixed broadband network, spanning 30 million premises and over 4.3 million geospatial telecommunication network assets. Using a network subset for Cambridgeshire, England the rollout of Fibre-To-The-Premises and Fibre-To-The-Distribution-Point upgrade options are then tested. Under different demand scenarios, market-based rollout is compared to a subsidised rollout strategy. Independently testing broadband deployment strategies in a virtual market and evaluating their effectiveness can provide greater transparency for decision-making processes. Over the long-term, a Digital Twin could help to generate new knowledge by testing experimental policy options, fostering greater innovation in how we tackle both perennial and emerging digital divide issues.

Keywords: Telecommunications, policy, simulation

Suggested Citation

Oughton, Edward, Building a Digital Twin: Testing the Effectiveness of Telecommunication Policies in a Virtual World (March 15, 2018). TPRC 46: The 46th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Edward Oughton (Contact Author)

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics