This paper offers a reflection on the changing nature of the reciprocal relations between large European cities and the telecommunications networks which serve them. Through a theoretical discussion of recent geography and urban studies literatures and an empirical analysis of logics present in the deployment of these networks in Europe, it contests a number of still dominant perspectives which underline how deterritorialisation processes are supporting economic globalisation, its concentration on so-called ‘global’ cities, and the emergence of ‘ubiquitous’ communications technologies. Going beyond these deterministic visions of an urban world which is increasingly homogeneous and delinked from its local contexts, the study of the infrastructure strategies and practices of telecommunications operators present in large European cities shows that the reciprocal links between networks and metropolises are based on a whole series of territorial logics. The increasingly multiscalar nature of the latter contributes to differentiating the infrastructure strategies of operators between cities. The interdependencies between metropolitan development and telecommunications networks are founded, therefore, both on globalisation and territorialisation, whereby the stretching of cities across various scales paradoxically increases metropolitan materiality.
By Jonathan Rutherford