EU Telcos (Still) Want to Charge Big Tech for 5G Rollout

The debate rages. On one side, European Union-based mobile network operators and broadband service providers have banded together to craft a proposal that would require the so-called ‘large traffic generators’ to help foot the bill for 5G rollouts and fiber network builds. Countering that proposal are the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) along with Microsoft and Tik Tok that together generate more than half of the internet traffic, according to data industry estimates. The proposal is part of feedback to the European Commission which launched a consultation into the issue in February with responses due last Friday, Reuters reported.

EU wireless and wireline telecom operators are calling for usage fees to be levied on these LTGs. Big Tech companies accounting for more than five percent of a telecom provider’s peak average internet traffic should help fund the rollout of 5G and broadband across Europe, according to a draft proposal reviewed by Reuters. The unpublished document was compiled by telecom lobbying groups GSMA and ETNO which represent 160 operators in Europe, including dominant companies such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Telecom Italia. 

Telecom operators have lobbied for years that the leading technology companies should pay a share for 5G and broadband network builds, arguing these tech companies generate a significant portion of the region’s internet traffic that rides on these networks. This proposal is the first time the telecom companies have attempted 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 said. “Large traffic generators would only be those companies that account for more than five percent of an operator’s yearly average busy hour traffic measured at the individual network level.”

But the big tech companies are pushing back. Meta on Wednesday called for the Commission to reject any proposals to charge Big Tech for additional network costs. In a blog, 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 stated.

By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor

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