A Fair Share solution to Europe’s connectivity challenge
Connectivity is Europe’s lifeline to the opportunities of the future. The European Union (EU) has laid out plans to capture these opportunities, setting a target for all citizens to be able to benefit from gigabit connection speeds or 5G networks by 2030. Achieving that goal will support Europe’s global competitiveness and bring social and economic benefits for all citizens. But getting there will require massive investments.
European telecom operators have invested over €500 billion in network infrastructure over the past decade and are set to invest billions more in the run-up to 2030. However, that still leaves a funding gap, estimated at €174bn by the European Commission (EC) - the shortfall from the amount needed to meet the EU's ‘Digital Decade’ goals. ETNO research has put this figure even higher, at closer to €300bn.
In short, Europe is at risk of missing out on the opportunities promised by the next generation of connectivity.
To address this challenge, the EC has launched a consultation looking at the future of Europe’ digital infrastructure. We welcome this effort to create an open dialogue and are eager to move swiftly towards a sustainable solution.
Currently, there is a fundamental imbalance between the European telecom operators, which shoulder the vast majority of the cost of building new networks, and large traffic generators (LTGs) who benefit the most from these investments.
LTGs capture the bulk of the profits from the data traffic that flows over them. Their success is difficult to overstate, with a market capitalisation of over USD 8.2 trillion. That’s 39 times larger than the largest European telecom operators.
The future of Europe’s digital infrastructure is unsustainable if these telecom operators cannot earn even a modest return on their network investments. The impasse both telecom operators and LTGs are in will only deteriorate if we consider the rapid growth of global Internet data traffic. The development of new services like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and metaverses will heap further demands on telecom networks. Importantly, only a handful of large Internet companies are responsible for roughly half of all internet traffic, which has increased by 600% in just seven years, and doubled between 2021 and 2023.
Our Fair Share proposal is designed to address this imbalance between those who make the network investments and those LTGs who profit from them. We are calling on the EU to regulate to ensure LTGs pay a fair and proportionate contribution to underpin continuous investment in Europe’s networks, to strengthen their sustainability and allow for a faster rollout of next generation services.
We are fully supportive of a free and open Internet. Nothing that we are proposing would allow telecom operators to throttle or discriminate against traffic of any kind or cause any conflict with the principles of net neutrality. They are intended to ensure European customers will continue to be able to enjoy fast, reliable and high-quality connections that are a match for our international peers.
Network operators, content generators, governments and European institutions have a shared interest in finding a funding solution together, that will benefit all citizens. Together, regulators and industry can foster an environment where citizens can benefit from the opportunities brought by digitalisation.
We welcome the ongoing public consultation and are hopeful this will lay the foundation for more fact-based discussions and a fairer approach.
Fair Share is a proposal developed by European telecom operators, in response to the question raised by the European Commission about how to ensure sustainable investment in Europe's communications networks. Fairshareinitiative.eu/who-we-are/