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Fastweb plans to spend big on its network

Italian Telco Fastweb has unveiled its latest strategic plan that will see it spend €3 billion on network expansion, including 5G and FWA, over the next three or so years.

The company this week presented ‘Tu sei futuro’, or ‘You are the future,’ its vision for the period to 2025, which includes all the usual industry buzzwords and hot topics – sustainability, social responsibility, digital skills and so forth – as well as commitments to extend high-speed connectivity to more people and to develop its position in areas like cyber security, cloud and edge computing.

It’s ticking a lot of telecoms bingo boxes with this announcement, but to its credit, it has made fairly concrete pledges and put numbers alongside most of its targets. The network side gets top billing, which is interesting, given the uncertainty in Italy around the controversial single network plan and TIM’s ongoing buyout discussions.

Fastweb has a strong focus on fixed wireless access (FWA). It notes that it has hit a target it set a year ago on FWA, having extended the technology 400 small and medium-sized towns located in so-called grey areas (that usually means areas with a single high-speed broadband provider), providing speeds of up 1 Gbps. Its new aim is to roll out Ultra FWA to 2,000 municipalities, or 12 million homes, by 2025.

Further, it is bigging up the acceleration of its 5G network rollout, which it says will reach 90% of the population by the same date.

That’s a 5% ahead of its original 5G, according to Italian financial publication Milano Finanza, citing comments made by Fastweb chief executive Alberto Calcagno at a press conference on Monday.

The paper notes that the new plan also covers fibre, with Fastweb aiming to extend its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network to 14.5 million premises in the same timeframe, in this case focusing on black areas.

In all, Fastweb will invest in excess of €3 billion in its network expansion plan by 2025-2026, Calcagno told the press conference. Its official announcement does not include this figure though.

The new strategic vision suggests that Fastweb sees itself as an independent network builder in the coming years, a position that was in some doubt, given that it holds a 4.5% stake in TIM’s FiberCop, having contributed its share of the Flash Fiber FTTH joint venture between itself and the incumbent to the new entity.

According to Milano Finanza, Calcagno spoke positively about FiberCop, which he described as a company with “very specific plans,” and said the business is moving forward unaffected by the current turbulence at TIM.

Furthermore, when asked about his company’s interest in any further consolidation in Italy, in the wake of Tiscali’s tie-up with Linkem at the back end of last year, Calcagno made it clear that Fastweb will pursue a standalone strategy. “We continue to go ahead alone,” he said, highlighting the fact that Fastweb is growing steadily and generating cash.

As an aside, the Tiscali-Linkem deal creates Italy’s fifth-largest fixed-line operator and the companies together claim to have a 19.4% share of the ultra broadband access market, comprising FTTH and FWA.

Whatever Fastweb’s stance, it seems competition is ramping up in Italy at a time when the incumbent arguably has its mind on other things. With rumours surfacing this week over the impending announcement of yet another new CEO for TIM, there are clearly some interesting times still to come in Italian telecoms.

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