European operators released a joint statement on Monday calling for US tech giants to help bear the brunt of network rollout costs because they are so reliant upon them

Throughout Europe – and, indeed, around the world – telecoms operators are struggling under the weight of rolling out the next generation of communications technology, whether this is gigabit-capable fibre or 5G.

Now, 14 major European telcos have released a joint statement via the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) calling for big tech to help fund these expensive rollouts, arguing that 

The signatories of the letter include the CEOs of BT, Vodafone Group, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, and Orange.

“A large and increasing part of network traffic is generated and monetized by Big Tech platforms, but it requires continuous, intensive network investment and planning by the telecommunications sector,” the letter states, adding "This model – which enables EU citizens to enjoy the fruits of the digital transformation – can only be sustainable if such platforms also contribute fairly to network costs."

While specific tech platforms are not named in the letter, it is likely that this refers to platforms like Netflix and Facebook. 

Sometimes referred to as over-the-top (OTT) service providers, for many years now the operators have viewed these giant corporations as reaping the benefits of their telecoms networks without contributing to their development.

The letter noted that around €300 billion in additional investment will be required for the rollout of gigabit networks and, as is customary, the operators called on governments and regulatory bodies to help make investment more appealing.

The operators also stressed that they were collectively already investing €50 billion a year in their networks, as well as highlighting their efforts to make their networks greener. 

But while the operators calling on regulators and governments to do more to rejig the balance of power between them and Big Tech is nothing new, it should be noted that the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred in this ever more digital world. 

This can be seen most noticeably in the submarine cable space, with the tech giants increasing investing in new projects to help carry their data around the world. By part-funding these projects, these companies are not only building out the infrastructure that will be crucial to handling the enormous transfer of data their services will engender in the coming years, but also reserving space on the cable specifically for themselves.  


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