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Europe’s mobile operators want Big Tech to make a decent net contribution

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Twitter, Facebook and co are LOL-ing all the way to the bank

US tech giants should pay towards the European networks they use so freely and exploit so profitably, an aggrievance of mobile operator CEOs has claimed.

Chief executives of Deutsche Telekom and 12 other major European telecoms companies signed a joint statement, seen by Reuters, complaining that network traffic is enabled by european investment and exploited by US tech giants.

The call by the CEOs comes as mobile operators are spinning off their infrastructure assets into tower companies and taking other drastic financing measures to raise the funds for massive 5G investment. Investments in Europe's telco sector rose to €52.5 billion ($59.4 billion) last year, a six-year high.

Over paid, over sexed and OTT

Now the CEOs of Vodafone, Orange and Telefonica may be wondering if their gearing and leveraging, to finance Radio Access Networks, fibre backhaul and satellite options is worth the effort if the returns on data and cloud services are mostly enjoyed by Netflix, Google's YouTube and Facebook.

The other signatories to the letter include the CEOs of BT Group, Telekom Austria, Vivacom, Proximus, Telenor, Altice Portugal, Telia Company and Swisscom.

"A large and increasing part of network traffic is generated and monetised by big tech platforms,” said the joint CEO statement, “but it requires continuous, intensive network investment and planning by the telecommunications sector."

"This model, which enables EU citizens to enjoy the fruits of the digital transformation, can only be sustainable if such big tech platforms also contribute fairly to network costs," they reasoned.

Never mind retweets, lets see some returns

The CEOs did not mention any tech firms by name but Reuters understands this to mean Netflix and Facebook. However, others claim that this might have been liked by Mark Zuckerberg and retweeted at Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal.

Another criticism for EU law makers was that high spectrum prices and auctions, used by EU governments as cash cows, have artificially forced unsustainable elements into the market. Scrapping surcharges on intra-EU calls will deprive the telecoms sector of two billion euros revenues over four years. This, the letter pointed out, was the equivalent of 2.5 per cent of the sector's yearly investment capacity for mobile infrastructure.