MWC: Debate on Big Tech’s “fair share” will dominate the mobile meeting in Barcelona

clash between big technology and telecommunications companies of the European Union, the question of who will insure the network infrastructure should be the main subject of discussion at the world’s largest telecommunications conference this week.

More than 80,000 people, including technical leaders, innovators and regulators, are gathering this year. Mobile World Congress (MVK) V Barcelona.

EU industry leader Thierry Breton Thursday launched a 12-week consultation on its “fair share” proposals, which would see Big Tech platforms bear most of the costs of the systems that give them access to consumers.

Representatives from companies such as Alphabet, Meta and Netflix are expected to use the conference as a platform to counter the EU proposals.

Content providers such as Netflix, which arranged for its CEO Greg Peters to meet with Breton at the conference, say their firms are already investing heavily in infrastructure.

They say paying extra fees detracts from investing in products that benefit consumers.

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In contrast, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Telecom Italia are actively lobbying to pay Big Tech’s fees. The GSMA, an association representing over 750 mobile operators and organizer of the MWC, was at the forefront of the debate.

“This discussion about ‘fair share’ or what we sometimes call the ‘investment gap’ will be a threshold issue,” said Jon Giusti, GSMA’s chief regulatory officer.

Critics of the fair share or “SPNP” (Sending Party Network Payments) model warn that a so-called “traffic tax” could result in content-centric platforms routing their services through ISPs (ISPs) for EU limits.

Orange told Reuters that the telecommunications industry does not require special privileges in its requirements. An EU spokesman said consultations with the EU were “the first positive sign” of the start of the debate.

“We advocate a framework that promotes fair and equitable commercial dealings that recognizes the direct contribution of tech giants to network costs,” they said.

However, the rules will be difficult to implement and enforce, said Shahid Ahmed, NTT executive vice president and FCC advisor.

“We’ve seen something very similar – all the net neutrality debate – taken in the US,” he said.

MWC, which starts on Monday, will also see new product launches companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi, HMD Global, Honor and RealMe.

Other hot topics include the speed of 5G adoption, which has frustrated some executives, and the potential use of generative AI systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

“Everything on the MWC floor is about looking to the future,” Guisti said.

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