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Tel Italia rivals plan €2.5bn broadband network

06 мая 2010

Three of Italy’s leading telecoms companies are set to announce a €2.5bn plan to build a superfast broadband network in 15 cities, in a move that could put pressure on Telecom Italia, the country’s former fixed-line phone monopoly.

The three companies – Vodafone’s Italian unit, mobile operator Wind and broadband provider Fastweb – have agreed they should co-invest in an optical fibre network that could reach millions of homes over the next five years.

They are looking for other network investors, and do not exclude the possibility that Telecom Italia could participate.

The network plan – due to be unveiled on Friday – could potentially dent Telecom Italia’s revenue if it decides not to participate.

However, Franco Bernabe, Telecom Italia’s chief executive, on Wednesday night welcomed the possibility of an alternative telecoms infrastructure provided by the company’s rivals.

“We are ready to face that competition, and to respond aggressively,” he told the Financial Times.

Telecom Italia is the most heavily indebted of Europe’s former fixed-line phone monopolies, and it has a limited investment plan in fibre-based broadband infrastructure.

It is due to spend €700m by the end of 2012 on fibre infrastructure that will reach 1.3m buildings in 13 cities.

The €2.5bn network plan involving Vodafone, Wind and Fastweb could give the three companies a better opportunity to compete with Telecom Italia for customers, based on the quality of the services they offer. Although Vodafone’s Italian unit and Wind are mobile-focused businesses, they also offer fixed-line services like Fastweb.

Telecom Italia derives a significant portion of its revenue from charges levied on other telecoms companies that want to rent capacity on its copper-based network.

Last month, Italian regulators proposed that Telecom Italia be able to increase its wholesale charges, and the move was criticised last week by Swisscom, Fastweb’s controlling shareholder.

Wind is owned by Weather, the private investment company controlled by Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian entrepreneur.

Mr Sawiris claimed that Telecom Italia’s wholesale charges were too high, and questioned the quality of its network infrastructure.

Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s chief executive, in February urged regulators to consider intervening in European countries where former fixed-line phone monopolies were not offering suitable terms to rivals that want access to their high-speed broadband networks.

He said at least two other telecoms groups should be able to use a fixed-line operator’s superfast network and if not, regulators should step in.

He singled out Spain’s Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom for not offering suitable access to their high-speed networks.

Fastweb and Sparkle, a Telecom Italia unit providing wholesale services to other telecoms companies, have been under investigation by prosecutors pursuing an alleged tax fraud.

Источник: Financial Times

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