Last week, European Parliament voted to establish a policy framework for a fair share model to ensure large traffic generators would contribute fairly to telecom networks, without prejudice to net neutrality.
Though this will no doubt trigger some fear mongering by certain stakeholders about all that could potentially go wrong, the reality is going to be much less dramatic and much more positive for the consumer and the enterprises whose connectivity and application quality of experience rely on the strength of the underlying networks.
This decision will not suddenly diminish quality, undermine democracy, limit the spread of internet, or foster inequality among content providers. A 'fair share' solution is simply an equitable way to better networks where the subscriber doesn’t have to bear all the costs. It’s only fair that Big Tech contributes to the networks that support their “Big Content”. Networks will get better and faster with their contribution, and that means customers will get more for less.
Overprovisioning is not sustainable
Currently, operators stave off congestion and poor user experiences by investing heavily in extra capacity. But overprovisioning for the fast-growing volumes of traffic pumped out by video, video streaming and VoD content is a mere Band-Aid that can’t hold forever.
BT’s CEO Marc Allera once described the chaos of a sudden 12% surge over BT’s network during Amazon Prime’s streaming of Premier League games: It was like “sitting in an air traffic control tower but having no control over air traffic,” which he went on to liken to “planes from all over the world independently choosing on which runway and at what time they would land.”
Asking the biggest content generators to pay for a portion of European operators’ infrastructure would support the EU’s “gigabit for everyone” targets, which may fall short if it’s all left to the operators.
For example, in Europe, annual infrastructure costs fall somewhere in the range of €40 billion to €56 billion, and that’s before metaverse, smart cities, and everything digital comes fully to fruition. There could be a substantial funding gap in reaching 2030 goals.
That’s driving CEOs from major European operators to see the writing on the wall, and they’re becoming more vocal. GSMA and ETNO (which together represent 160 operators in Europe) recently drew up a proposal for how Big Tech could help contribute to EU’s 5G rollout. In an Axon report available on the ETNO site, Sandvine data is cited to show that Google, Apple, Meta, Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft together account for more than half of data traffic over the internet.
Individually, operators are also speaking out. For example, Orange deputy CEO Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière said during MWC Barcelona, “We're not [going] to make more money on Orange's bottom line, that's clear. The idea is to better balance coverage extension and capacity."
This is the right time
This move by European Parliament, which also taps Sandvine data, recognizes a simple truth: that it’s no longer acceptable that just a handful of companies reap the biggest rewards, without paying into the networks from which they build market values in the trillions. This proposal simply means Big Tech does what everyone else does: airlines pay for runways; brands pay for shelf space; people pay tolls to use highways -- no one gets a free ride.
Something’s got to give if society as a whole wants the highest levels of reliable connectivity and performance for emerging technologies, no matter the challenges of energy crises, inflation, pandemic, war, climate change. The future of AR/VR, metaverse, autonomous, smart cities, and food equity, depend on that unwavering connectivity.
Parliament’s decision to facilitate a more equitable business model means policymakers and leaders are recognizing that operators need capital to invest in innovation and digital-era connectivity, privacy, and security.
The timing of this decision is critical, as service providers in the next five to 10 years will be facing dark times if policies and laws aren’t updated to reflect the digital, app-driven era we now live and work in. Until the EU Council of Ministers meets to further this proposal, and until other governments consider doing the same, operators have to do more to understand what’s going on with their networks. They have to leverage application-level analytics to see, classify, and categorize traffic so they have contextual insight about where and when to dedicate network resources so they preserve margins and defer capex in these times of limited growth.
To learn more about who is generating the most traffic over networks, check out our Global Internet Phenomena Report and contact us today to speak to an expert about Sandvine application and network intelligence across the data plane, control plane, and user plane.