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Italian operators continue 5G FWA push

Vodafone Italia is very excited about hitting its latest 5G fixed wireless access milestone, while one of Italy’s FWA market leaders has changed its name as it embarks on a new, wholesale-only strategy.

Vodafone’s high-speed broadband based on 5G mobile technology is now available in 1,500 Italian municipalities, covering 2 million homes, it revealed on Monday. It might not be the telco group’s most significant announcement of the week, but it’s a pretty big deal to people living in small population centres in Italy who to date may not have had access to superfast Internet services.

Specifically, Vodafone notes that consumers can opt for a service plan offering speeds of up to 300 Mbps, while small and medium-sized businesses have a 500 Mbps plan at their disposal. Businesses will also be able to avail themselves of the Business Voucher Scheme managed by the Ministry of Economic Development (Mise), which allows them to apply for a contribution to the cost of high-speed broadband of between €300 and €2,500.

“By bringing ultra-broadband to businesses and professionals even in the smallest centres, we wanted to make a contribution to the digitization of the country’s productivity,” said Lorenzo Forina, director of Vodafone Business Italia. “The very availability of ultra-broadband services opens up new opportunities for the development of local economies. For companies – who can access the Mise connectivity voucher – this is a unique opportunity for modernization and development.”

It’s an opportunity Vodafone aims to expand upon. It targets rolling out 5G-based FWA to an additional one thousand municipalities between now and March next year, taking the total number of homes passed to 3 million-plus.

Vodafone has a moderate presence in Italy’s growing FWA market. Its market share in terms of accesses came in at 6.6% at the end of March, according to the latest figures from regulator Agcom. Interestingly, Vodafone recorded the second highest growth rate in the market over the previous 12 months at 4 percent, with only TIM turning in a better performance; the telco incumbent posted 6.5 percent growth to give it a market share of 14.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Italy’s FWA specialists, which claim just over a third of the market each, saw their shares contract.

Most notable was Linkem’s fall from grace. Once the FWA market leader by some margin, the firm’s share declined by 8.3 percent to 34.1 percent, leaving it behind new leader Eolo by a whisker… of half a percentage point, to be exact.

But the picture is set to change. Linkem inked a merger deal with Tiscali late last year which closed in August. As such, its retail arm is now part of Tiscali, although for now the Linkem brand appears to be still operational. Nonetheless, if the regulator chooses to amalgamate the two firms’ FWA figures, the new Tiscali will become the market leader, its current 2 percent share giving the combined business a leg up… unless it continues to lose customers, of course.

That merger left the remainder of Linkem, the wholesale business, with a branding dilemma, but one it has now solved, announcing its new identity: OpNet.

As names go, it’s not a world-beater. But this is not about one network operator. It’s about a market in which operators are actively investing in growing their FWA businesses to extend high-speed broadband availability. Take-up rates may be well behind traditional fixed offerings – 1.72 million FWA accesses pales into insignificance compared with north of 10 million FTTC connections and to a lesser extent 2.82 million FTTH lines – but this market is growing.

 

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