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Neutral host provider BAI heads to Italy, led by former TIM execs

Global Communication Network

BAI Communications is taking its neutral host business to Italy, headed up by a team of executives, most of whom have worked at TIM at one time or another.

The launch of BAI Italia marks the Australia-headquartered infrastructure firm’s first European foray outside of the UK and Ireland, and comes at a time when the industry is once again starting to look to small cells to help drive 5G rollouts.

“As one of the largest mobile markets in Europe, Italy presents an exciting opportunity for BAI to further extend its neutral host solutions, as MNOs, municipalities and private companies continue to invest in the 5G infrastructure required to support a more connected future,” said BAI Communications’ group CEO Igor Leprince.

BAI’s core business is deploying infrastructure in dense urban areas and in transport systems in Asia, North America and – increasingly – Europe. BAI Italia will continue in that vein, providing small cells to densify networks in urban environments; private networks for enterprises in areas such as healthcare, manufacturing and education; and DAS networks at large public venues and stadiums. On that last point, it reminds us that its public venues business is already well-established in the US, largely thanks to last year’s Mobilitie acquisition, and in Europe via Vilicom, which it bought at the end of last year.

But for now, we’re more interested in the small cells. BAI’s Italian job provides a further hint that the market might be finally taking off after years of false starts.

Last month US-based passive infrastructure specialist Crown Castle shared a strong set of full-year financials and indicated that its customers are now looking to small cells at scale as they move into the next phase of their 5G builds. That’s in the US, of course, but Europe might not be far behind.

The small cells model makes a lot of sense in a market like Italy, where many urban centres are peppered with old buildings and, as a result, pretty stringent planning rules. Italy’s four main mobile network operators have been rolling out 5G for the past 12-18 months and, like their peers the world over, are keen to hit coverage and speed targets. It feels like a good time for BAI’s arrival there.

And BAI has brought in a wealth of experience to lead its new business; market knowledge should not be a problem.

The company has named Luca Luciani, whose CV includes three and a half years as chief executive of TIM Brasil and a decade at TIM in Italy before that, as CEO of BAI Italia. The team also includes Antonino Ruggiero, Riccardo Jelmini, Riccardo D’Angelo and Enrico Lanzavecchia, a number of whom have stints at Telecom Italia companies in their career histories.

“The incredible experience across the BAI group means we are in the best position to work with the MNOs, private industrial precincts, commercial venues, public offices and municipalities to improve indoor and outdoor connectivity in Italy, helping to accelerate digital innovation across multiple sectors and drive the deployment of smart city applications,” said Luciani, in a statement. “We look forward to replicating BAI’s success in other countries here in Italy, as we strive to become the largest neutral host provider in the country.”

Today’s announcement is all about Italy, but its hard to imagine that ambitious BAI will not seek to replicate the model elsewhere in Europe too, sooner or later.

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