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European carriers want Apple, others to finance network buildup

European carriers want providers like Apple, Facebook and Google to help finance the billions of dollars worth of network investments that their data-hungry devices and services demand. France Telecom SA, Telecom Italia SpA and Vodafone Group Plc are among those requesting that Apple and the others start paying a usage-based fee.

The carriers note that the ever-increasing pool of mobile users requires significant upgrades to their networks. Eventually, they fear, the cost of keeping up will outpace revenue growth. According to one economic researcher who's following the story, the number of mobile data connections in western Europe is expected to rise to 270 million by 2014 (that's an average of 15 percent per year), and carrier investment is expected to grow by 28 percent to US$3.7 billion.

On the other hand, providers like Apple note that they don't share in the carriers' profits, and don't see why they should be responsible for their network upkeep as a result.

It's a brave -- and pricey -- new world.

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