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Iliad launches broadband in Italy with cheap FTTH and home-made box

French telco group Iliad launched its fixed broadband service in Italy on Tuesday with all the whooping and hollering one would expect from a new market entrant.

But behind the hype – and there was plenty of that at the launch event, with Iliad Italia CEO Benedetto Levi heralding a revolution in the Italian fibre market – there’s a serious message for existing Italian broadband providers: prepare for a price war…or a squeeze, at least.

Iliad’s full fibre fixed broadband service is late to market. The telco, which exploded onto the Italian mobile market in mid-2018, had intended to add a fixed service to its portfolio last summer, but the launch date kept slipping. However, the service is available as of now and, to simplify Levi’s presentation a little, it’s cheaper than equivalent offers in the market and will offer faster broadband for more households in Italy.

“We listened,” said Levi, who took great pains to reinforce the customer service angle during his speech. “We are transparent, we are sincere, we don’t lie.”

That last point was a gentle dig at Iliad’s longer-established rivals, who Levi had already named and shamed as having been the subject of regulatory censure due to “misleading advertising” on fibre.

The key point for many will be the price of Iliad’s service. For Iliad mobile customers, the service costs €15.99 a month forever, following a €39.99 installation charge, while non-mobile customers will be billed at €23.99 per month.

It’s tough to make a price comparison with the competition, since, as Levi pointed out, there is a lack of similar offers on the market at present. Iliad is offering speeds of up to 5 Gbps download and 700 Mbps upload, while its rivals are sticking with the standard 1 Gbps/300 Mbps, Levi said. A quick trawl round the Websites of Italy’s big fibre providers suggests he’s correct, for the most part – there are some higher speeds out there – and moreover, those packages are coming in at around the €25-€30 per month mark.

Iliad’s service is available to 7.4 million households at launch, 6 million of which can access the top speeds, with the remainder on a 1 Gbps/300 Mbps service, although it is looking to grow its coverage area. Iliad is mainly working with Open Fiber as its network provider at present, but it brokered a co-investment deal with TIM’s FiberCop last summer that should also help with its expansion plans.

In addition to pricing and speed, Iliad is hoping to win over potential customers with the new home hub – Iliadbox – that goes with the fibre service.

“[Iliadbox is] a new standard of router in Italy,” declared Levi, explaining that Iliad developed the box entirely in house, both hardware and software, to create a more beautiful home accessory. You could be forgiven for thinking it looks like a smoke alarm, but nonetheless, there is a nod towards style there, as there is with the accompanying WiFi extender, which costs €1.99 per month for those with tricky home layouts.

Perhaps more importantly, Iliad is talking up the sustainability angle, and this time it is more than just ticking the ‘green issues’ box. Iliadbox is “really, really tough,” Levi said, explaining that it is designed to last at least 10 years. If that proves to be correct, that’s a great move from Iliad.

And with a ‘forever’ price pledge, the company could realistically expect to keep its customers for that long, provided the service is up to snuff, of course. All of which provides plenty of food for thought for Italy’s existing fibre players.

According to regulator Agcom’s latest figures, there were 2.44 million fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections in Italy at the end of September, an increase of more than 51% year-on-year. Fastweb, which a fortnight ago detailed big plans for network expansion, leads the market with a 25.6% share, while Vodafone, Wind Tre and TIM are close behind, with 23.2%, 22% and 19.9% respectively. However, TIM reported the biggest market share growth in the year to the end of the reporting period with a 4% hike, despite the fact that its FiberCop project is struggling to get off the ground.

Tiscali ranks a distant fifth, but since the figures were published has linked up with rival Linkem, a move that will boost both companies’ position in the market.

It’s clearly all to play for in Italian fibre. And Iliad’s €15.99 offer could play a big part in changing the shape of the market over the coming 12 months, with or without the reported merger with Vodafone. Iliad made its mark in the Italian mobile market and looks set to do the same in fibre.

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