Iliad and WindTre inch towards rural 5G JV

Italian operators Iliad and WindTre appear to have made progress in their plan to share the burden of rural 5G rollout.

WindTre has secured the agreement of trade unions for the transfer of certain employees to a new joint venture company that it plans to set up with Iliad, Il Sole 24 Ore reported this week.

The telecoms operators have not yet had the green light from the relevant authorities for their scheme, the Italian financial paper notes. But hammering out the details with the unions seems like a solid step forward nonetheless.

We haven’t heard much from either Iliad or WindTre about this proposed 50:50 joint venture, but there have been numerous press reports on the subject. In addition, while it doesn’t always come naturally to telecoms operators to do so, sharing the workload – both physical and financial – makes a lot of sense in network rollout.

In mid-March Reuters reported that the two telcos were nearing a deal that would enable them to share the cost of 5G rollout in remote areas of Italy. Under the terms of the deal, WindTre would create a separate company by carving out around 7,000 of its mobile sites in remote areas of the country, serving about 27% of the Italian population.

Iliad would subsequently acquire a 50% stake in that company, via a deal that would value the whole entity at somewhere between €600 million and €900 million.

The JV would then take on the cost of upgrading the network to 5G in those remote areas. Such a move would build on the roaming deal Iliad already has that enables it to use WindTre’s infrastructure in remote areas of Italy.

There was no confirmation of the details of that story from either company though. And Reuters’ sources were quick to point out that nothing had been signed yet.

Nonetheless, with additional information now emerging, it seems that WindTre and Iliad are likely pushing on with that plan, or something very similar. Naturally, a JV of this type needs regulatory approval. And once the authorities get involved we’re likely to hear a bit more about what’s actually going on.

As Italy’s CorCom points out, now it’s over to the authorities.

It’s not clear exactly how long we might have to wait for a regulatory answer, but the publication insists that Wind Tre and Iliad aim to close the deal by the end of June, so it could be sooner rather than later.

All of which is good news for the telcos keen to crack on with providing 5G services as broadly as possible, but also for the consumers living in those remote regions who might find they have access to 5G sooner than they expected.

It’s also a positive for the industry as a whole. All too often we have heard telcos talk a good game on sharing, but then fail in the execution. Competing on coverage is a hard habit to break.


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