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Italian strategic fund backs Metroweb €4.5B FTTH plan

13 June 2012
 
Earlier this year, the Italian infrastructure fund F2i presented a plan to the Italian government to spend €4.5 billion bringing fibre connections to 10 million people in 30 major Italian cities by 2020.  F2i holds a majority stake in Metroweb, the company that owns the FTTH network in Milan.
 
The sticking point: where is the money?  On 28 May, a strategic investment fund, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), said it would back the scheme.
 
The public sector fund plans to invest €200 million in return for a 46.2% stake in the telecommunications company, and has the option to invest a further €300 in a second phase of investment.  In the first phase of deployment, FTTH networks would be rolled out in the cities of Brescia and Genoa.
 
Italy was one of the early adopters of FTTH technology, thanks to the efforts of Metroweb and the associated service provider Fastweb.  But progress stalled, and the country is now among the laggards in Europe with FTTH penetration of just under 2%, according to figures from the FTTH Council Europe (see Europe (still) needs to speed up on FTTH).
 
The Italian government has yet to finalize the country’s Digital Agenda, aimed at accelerating the deployment of ultra-high speed networks and reducing the digital divide, which it expects to present to the European Commission later this month.
 
Operators in Italy have been trying to form alliances in order to coordinate investment and avoid duplication of fibre infrastructure. There is political concern that the proposed investment in Metroweb will create a second network that covers areas already being targeted by the incumbent, Telecom Italia, as part of its FTTC/VDSL roll out.  
 
F2i has invited other operators to join the scheme, including Telecom Italia.
 
By Pauline Rigby