Content producers should contribute to mobile internet costs, says O2 chief

Consumer fees alone are not enough to pay for the infrastructure needed to deliver content to mobile phones, according to O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne, hinting at an erosion of the principle known as network neutrality. Dunne told a conference last week that content producers should be prepared to pay network operators for the delivery of their material to subscribers. The issue has been a major sticking point in the US telecoms industry. Proponents of net neutrality believe that internet users pay for access to the whole internet and should have all information delivered to them equally well. 

But operators of telecoms networks have suggested that those companies which produce bandwidth-heavy content should contribute to the costs of maintaining networks and receive preferential network treatment in return.

Dunne told last week's Westminster eForum meeting that big companies should contribute to the cost of delivering their material to mobile phone users.

"Isn’t it fair to ask those big companies that are fuelling the data surge to help make a contribution to the infrastructure? If consumers alone are paying for the data there is no incentive on content providers to use networks efficiently," he said

"So we think that part of the solution may come in moving away from the old one-size-fits-all model," said Dunne. "The alternative – that we all continue to pay for unlimited access – would simply end up pricing out the vast majority of our customers who will continue to have a relatively modest but growing use of data in order to pay for the small proportion of very high users."

Dunne said that the problem facing mobile network operators was that they were investing billions of pounds in infrastructure to cope with a massive increase in data use, while facing a very price-competitive market.

"An increasing share of [growing] data traffic will travel across mobile networks," he said. "Think of all the data ever carried across mobile networks since they were first launched in the 1980s. By 2014, mobile networks will carry 133 times more than that total in just one single year."

"Already within the last twelve months, we’ve seen an increase from a quarter to a third of UK residents who use their mobile to go online. And among those aged 16 -24 that proportion rises to almost half," he said.

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