Big 4 European network operators call for content platforms to fund telecom infrastructure

Several large European network operators are calling for OTT platforms and cloud giants to contribute towards the cost of the telecom infrastructure they use to deliver content to end users. In an open letter published in the Financial Times, the CEOs of Vodafone, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, and Orange have expressed their serious concern that content platforms should contribute towards building the connectivity infrastructure they rely on.

“The current situation is simply not sustainable. The investment burden must be shared in a more proportionate way.  Today, video streaming, gaming, and social media – originated by a few digital content platforms – account for over 70 percent of all traffic running over the networks. Digital platforms are profiting from hyper scaling business models at little cost while network operators are taking on the investment required for network connectivity. At the same time, our retail market profitability has been declining.”

The CEOs note that data traffic increasing by up to 50 percent annually and claim they’re unable to make a viable return on their investments. They say it puts further infrastructure development at risk.  They cite Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report, released in January 2022, stating that video streaming, gaming and social media “generated by a handful of digital content platforms” account for more than 70 percent of all traffic on the web.

Source: Sandvine

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Despite being the leading providers of mobile services throughout the continent, the executives claim they are no match for the “strong market positions, asymmetric bargaining power, and the lack of a level regulatory playing field” enjoyed by tech giants.

“Consequently, we cannot make a viable return on our very significant investments, putting further infrastructure development at risk,” the CEOs added. “If we don’t fix this unbalanced situation Europe will fall behind other world regions, ultimately degrading the quality of experience for all consumers.”

They noted that South Korea is discussing a national law that would create regulatory conditions for a more equitable sharing of internet costs — in part because of the popularity of Netflix’s “Game of Squids.”  Following that success, South Korean network operator SK Telecom sued Netflix over the costs it claims to have incurred from increased network traffic and maintenance work

“In the U.S., policymakers are also turning to universal services that are also funded by digital platforms,” ​​the CEOs added.

While the joint statement did not explicitly mention net neutrality, the CEOs complained that “network operators are unable to negotiate with these mega-platforms due to their own strong market positions, asymmetric bargaining power between the parties and lack of a level regulatory playing field. Fair terms.”

The joint statement also echoes recent comments by Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s consumer division, who noted “a complete lack of coordination on many data-intensive events.”  Allera said, “Every operator’s network is suffering from stress, everyone’s internet has become more unstable than before.”

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References:

https://www.ft.com/content/68f989f5-96e6-440e-90f4-2a11840d9c99

https://min.news/en/tech/c3e4e694a7c423425fbdbefa8de94c01.html

European operators want platforms to contribute towards infrastructure

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2022/02/01/sandvine-google-facebook-microsoft-apple-amazon-and-netflix-generate-almost-57-of-internet-traffic/

https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/digital-principles

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