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Italy eyes consortium of telcos to speed broadband rollout - document

Wed 21st April, 2021 4:33pm
* Ministers considering alternatives to single broadband
network
    * Consortium plan needs backing from Italy, EU antitrust
bodies
    * Draghi plans to invest some 7 bln euros on ultra-fast
networks

    By Giuseppe Fonte
    ROME, April 21 (Reuters) - Italy's ruling parties are
discussing a plan to agglomerate all the country's telecom
operators in a consortium to accelerate the rollout of
ultra-fast infrastructure nationwide, a document seen by Reuters
showed on Wednesday.
    While talks continue on the fate of a long-delayed plan to
merge the fixed-line access network of former monopoly Telecom
Italia (TIM)  TLIT.MI  with that of rival Open Fiber, the scheme
is seen as a quicker alternative to boost investments. 
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2M90O6
    Key coalition figures met on Tuesday with officials from the
industry and innovation ministries to discuss potential options,
four participants told Reuters.
    The consortium proposal would aim to avoid duplicating
investments and to "encourage joint investments financed by
public grants," the minutes of the meeting said.
    It remains to be seen how the scheme, which is championed by
the co-ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD), would comply
with Italian and European Antitrust rules.
    Mario Draghi's government plans to spend almost 7 billion
euros ($8.40 billion) on ultra-fast networks over the next six
years using money from the European Union's Recovery Fund,
sources have said.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2M555A
    The consortium idea is in opposition to a proposal
previously set out by Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao, a
former Vodafone CEO, to launch tenders for rolling out fiber in
the so-called "grey areas", accounting for about a third of the
country, where only one operator offers connections.
    Several people at the meeting underlined the risk that a
large number of small tenders at the same time may lead to
uncoordinated implementation of investments, resulting in
overcapacity, the minutes said.
    Participants discussed various scenarios for the ultra-fast
broadband network, the minutes showed.
    TIM has repeatedly said it would not agree to owning less
than 50% of any combined entity with Open Fiber - something that
could trigger regulatory issues.
    A less ambitious plan on the table would see Open Fiber
merge with Fibercop, a vehicle controlled by TIM that runs the
group's secondary network going from street cabinets to homes.
    Under this project, TIM would not fold its primary network -
connecting switching centres to street cabinets - into the
venture, preventing the former phone monopoly having a majority
stake.
    ($1 = 0.8328 euros)

 (Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, editing by Gavin Jones and Elaine
Hardcastle)
 ((giuseppe.fonte@thomsonreuters.com; +390680307711;))
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