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Italy begins rural broadband tender

The Italian government’s Infratel unit has kicked of the first part of its EUR3.65 billion (USD4.2 billion) tender to find firms to deploy broadband infrastructure in rural areas of the country.

The call is part of the national strategy for ultra-broadband which also includes plans to connect schools and health facilities and to promote the development of 5G networks, expected in succession within the next three months.

The government is preparing to divide the areas put out to tender into 15 lots and wants to prevent a single bidder from winning more than eight of them, the sources said, cautioning that the terms were not yet finalised.

The Italia 1 Giga project aims to improve connectivity for 6.9 million Italians to ensure the whole of the country can access 1 gigabyte per second fixed Internet connectivity by 2026.

European Union authorities informally urged Italy to set a 50% cap on broadband lots that can be assigned to single firms or consortiums to ensure competition is preserved.

The idea of a cap is consistent with the line favoured by Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao, a former Vodafone CEO, who has said protecting competition is the best way to promote ultra fast fibre rollout.

Colao’s office said it planned to publish the call for tenders by the end of January, and the sources told Reuters they may be issued as soon as Friday. Rome plans to award the contracts by June.

The funding scheme aims to cover about 7 million homes where no broadband operator offers or plans to offer download connectivity of at least 300 Megabits per second.

The tender process comes as Italy’s telecoms sector is in flux due to a proposal by U.S. private equity giant KKR to take over Telecom Italia (TIM).

CT Bureau

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