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Starlink alleges Telecom Italia hinders high-speed internet rollout

Elon Musk’s Starlink has claimed Italy’s largest phone carrier is obstructing its high-speed internet rollout in the country, with possible repercussions for its services across southern Europe and north Africa.

Telecom Italia SpA has for months failed to comply with regulations requiring it to share spectrum data, Starlink said in a complaint to Italy’s communications watchdog and the Industry Ministry late last week, a document seen by Bloomberg showed. This information is necessary to avoid frequency interferences, and the lack of data has severely slowed deployment of the SpaceX satellite communications company’s new gateway equipment, it said.

A representative for Telecom Italia said that this complaint is a partial reconstruction of the facts that doesn’t take into account ongoing discussions. Representatives for Italy’s communications authority Agcom and for the Industry Ministry declined to comment. A SpaceX representative didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In contrast to other carriers, Telecom Italia “has clearly informed Starlink that it doesn’t want to coordinate,” and it hasn’t shared necessary data, the document said. That lack of coordination could cause service outages in parts of southern Europe and north Africa that are partially powered by equipment located in Italy, according to the document.

Starlink urged Italy’s Industry Ministry to intervene and said the company would be forced to shift investments from Italy if the situation remains unresolved, the document said.

Telecom Italia replied to Starlink’s initial request for data, which dates back to mid-October, denying access and claiming that Starlink shouldn’t be allowed on certain frequencies for technical reasons, according to the document.

Separately, the Industry Ministry has said it will set up working groups between Starlink and Telecom Italia to encourage coexistence between the different technologies.

“The Ministry needs to grant Telecom Italia’s critical data as well as to allow incoming carriers such as Starlink to provide new services,” minister Adolfo Urso said on Tuesday at an event in Rome.

A spokesman for Telecom Italia said that it’s provided necessary feedback to Starlink and is available to talk to the company via Industry Ministry mediators about data crucial for national security.

Starlink delivers broadband Internet beamed down from a network of roughly 5,500 satellites that SpaceX started deploying in 2019.

Telecom Italia has been hamstrung for decades by a complex mix of high labor costs and ever-higher investments to keep its network infrastructure up to date. Last year the carrier sold its landline network, its most valuable asset, to US private equity firm KKR & Co., in a deal valued at about €19 billion ($20.6 billion) plus earn-outs.

With some 2.6 million customers already, Starlink has the potential to become a major moneymaker for SpaceX, a company that began as a Musk vehicle for fulfilling his dreams of exploring space. It has now become the most important private-sector contractor to the US government’s space program and a dominant force in national security. Bloomberg

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