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Digital Economy, Internet Ecosystem, and Internet Policy

The research group investigates the tensions between competition, regulation and innovation from an interdisciplinary perspective. Particular emphasis is placed on research into the platform economy, the role of data in the digital economy, various aspects of the roll-out as well as innovative forms of sharing digital infrastructures, and the efficiency and evolution of the Internet ecosystem.

Digital infrastructures and the Internet are increasingly becoming essential for the economy and society. While digital transformation emphasizes the criticality of the provision of, and access to, broadband communications and cloud infrastructures to facilitate the (successful) social and economic participation of individuals and businesses, underlying technological developments represent the starting point of profound transformation processes. These processes are changing traditionally prevailing notions, for example, regarding value chains, business models, market and competitive dynamics, industrial structures, hierarchies, and power relations.

The platformization of markets and the increasing role of data represent two central phenomena of digital transformation and the digital economy. Big data analytics, the orchestrated use of cloud computing, and machine learning/artificial intelligence enable novel and cost-effective ways to analyze vast amounts of data (in real time). Companies can use data to provide customized products and services ("mass customization"), targeted and personalized advertising or recommendations, or dynamic and personalized pricing. Similarly, data plays an essential role in innovation, for example, in the context of the optimization and development of processes, services, products, and business models, as well as in the context of strategic acquisitions. Digital platforms emphasize the relevance of network effects and data-driven learning effects; they also significantly change market and competitive dynamics and industry structures.

The Internet ecosystem is also changing: It is becoming more complex and diverse. Modern broadband networks enable the provision of a wide range of applications and use cases – this range results in complex demands for connectivity, (local) cloud-based data processing, and content delivery. In addition to the increasing need for investments in communication and server infrastructures, challenges arise regarding the efficient use of different, complementary network resources. Trends towards vertically integrated cloud ecosystems built on private/proprietary communication and server infrastructures show how respective companies can (strategically) reduce their dependency on the “public Internet“ and gain a distinct market position. The boundaries between private networks and the public Internet are increasingly blurred, and a functional gap is growing.

The research group examines the evolution and efficiency of the Internet ecosystem and the tension between competition, regulation, and innovation in the context of the digital economy. Particular emphasis is placed on investigating various aspects of the expansion and efficient management of as well as access to digital (communication- and cloud-) infrastructures and their evolution. In addition, markets, business models, and the role of platforms and data in the digital economy are studied.

The group's research agenda is divided into three subprojects that examine different thematic complexes and research questions – each utilizing and combining different disciplinary and methodological approaches:

Broadband and the Essentiality of Digital Infrastructures

The role and essentiality of digital infrastructures are being investigated from a techno-economic perspective.

Platform economy and the Role of Data

The role and functioning of digital platforms as well as the role of data in the digital economy are being investigated. A particular focus is placed on studying the tension between competition, regulation, and innovation.

Evolution of the Internet Ecosystem and Internet Policy

Optimal investments in network resources and allocation and coordination problems within the Internet ecosystem are being addressed. Based on the knowledge gained, questions of Internet policy will be investigated. Thus, in addition to exploring various aspects of the expansion and sharing of communication and cloud infrastructures as well as the evolution of the Internet ecosystem (e.g., future Internet architectures, 5G/6G-based network slicing & edge computing, the role of hypergiants), various actors and their business models, markets, and competition and innovation dynamics are being investigated.


The research group has its own blog on which it offers a wide range of articles and information as well as announcing and documenting events.