Reuters: Telcos draft proposal to charge Big Tech for EU 5G rollout; Meta offers a rebuttal

Big tech companies accounting for more than 5% of a telecoms provider’s peak average internet traffic should help fund the rollout of 5G and broadband across Europe, according to a draft proposal by the telecoms industry.  The proposal is part of feedback to the European Commission which launched a consultation into the issue in February. The deadline for responses is Friday.

Alphabet’s Google, Apple  Facebook-owner Meta, Amazon, Netflix and TikTok would most likely be hit with fees, according to industry estimates.  Google, Apple, Meta, Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft together account for more than half of data internet traffic.

The document, which was reviewed by Reuters and has not been published, was compiled by telecoms lobbying groups GSMA and ETNO. They represent 160 operators in Europe, including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica  and Telecom Italia.  Telecom operators have lobbied for years for leading technology companies to help foot the bill for 5G and broadband roll-out, saying that they create a huge part of the region’s internet traffic. This is the first time they have tried to define a threshold for who should pay.

“We propose a clear threshold to ensure that only large traffic generators, who impact substantially on operators’ networks, fall within the scope,” the draft stated.  “Large traffic generators would only be those companies that account for more than 5% of an operator’s yearly average busy hour traffic measured at the individual network level,” it said.  The European Commission declined to comment.

Meta on Wednesday urged Brussels to reject any proposals to charge Big Tech for additional network costs. In a Facebook blog post, Markus Reinisch, Meta’s VP for Public Policy for Europe, described potential fees as a “private sector handout for selected telecom operators” that would disincentivize innovation and investment, and distort competition. “We urge the Commission to consider the evidence, listen to the range of organizations who have voiced concerns, and abandon these misguided proposals as quickly as possible,” he said.  Here are Meta’s takeaways:

  • Network fee proposals misunderstand the value that content platforms bring to the digital ecosystem.
  • We support the Commission’s goal of “ensuring access to excellent connectivity for everyone,” but network fee proposals will hurt European consumers and businesses.
  • We urge the Commission to consider the evidence, listen to the range of organizations who have voiced concern, and drop these proposals.


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GSMA: Europe’s 5G rollout is too slow at 6% of mobile customer base

GSMA says in order to stay competitive European economies must ‘digitalize’ themselves through faster 5G rollouts and make a fair contribution.  The telco trade body and owner of MWC event has released its 2022 Mobile Economy Report for Europe, in which it states the EU will not meet its ‘digital decade goals’ unless it starts rolling out 5G faster across the continent.

In 2021, 474 million people in Europe (86% of the population) were subscribed to mobile services, and this is expected to grow to 480 million by 2025.

The majority of countries in Europe have now deployed commercial 5G services, and nearly two thirds of wireless network operators in the region have launched 5G networks.  At the end of June 2022, 108 operators in 34 markets across Europe had launched commercial 5G services, while consumer uptake was at 6% of the mobile customer base. Norway trended above this with 16% of its citizens using 5G, followed by Switzerland (14%), Finland (13%), the UK (11%) and Germany (10%).

GSMA forecasts that by 2025, there will be 311 million 5G connections across Europe, a 44% adoption rate. However, European markets still lag behind global peers such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S. in the adoption of 5G technology.  In 2025, the UK and Germany will have the highest 5G adoption rates in Europe at 61% and 59% respectively, compared to 73% in South Korea and 68% in Japan and the U.S. 4G adoption in Europe will peak in 2022 and then decline. However, it is set to remain the dominant technology across the region, accounting for just over half of total connections by 2025.

The pace of 5G coverage expansion across Europe will be a key factor in the transition from 4G to 5G. Although 5G network coverage in Europe will rise to 70% in 2025 (from 47% in 2021), nearly a third of the population will remain without 5G coverage. This compares to 2% or less in South Korea and the U.S.


“Europe is adopting 5G faster than ever before, but greater focus on creating the right market conditions for infrastructure investment is needed to keep pace with other world markets. This should include the implementation of the principle of fair contribution to network costs,” said Daniel Pataki, GSMA Vice President for Policy & Regulation, and Head of Europe.

Which of course is a reference to the ‘fair contribution’ argument that telcos and now the GSMA itself has been making for some time now, which in a nutshell says that since internet firms like Netflix and Facebook make tons of money, they should contribute to the building of physical network infrastructure because it is expensive and telcos don’t make as much cash as they used to.

This announcement from the GSMA goes a bit further than saying it’s unfair that content providers make much more margin streaming TV shows that telcos do on digging holes and dragging up cell towers, and seems to be asserting that unless something is done about all this then the entire continent of Europe will become uncompetitive on the world stage.

As economies and societies around the world digitalize, the acceleration of 5G in Europe is necessary to ensure that traditional industrial and manufacturing strengths are not dragged down by weaknesses in the ICT sector. To achieve this, it is vital to create the right conditions for private infrastructure investment, network modernization and digital innovation. A financially sustainable mobile sector is key to the delivery of innovative services and the deployment of new networks.




The Mobile Economy Europe 2022

GSMA says Europe’s 5G rollout is too slow