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Italy inches closer to national wholesale broadband provider

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The journey has a huge cast of players and has taken many twists and turns, as yet another round of regulatory scrutiny begins.

Italy's competition authority, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), has said that while the proposed FiberCop last-mile network grid was a "strategic objective" for Italy, it wants to ensure "healthy, dynamic competition."

Hence it is investigating the agreements that have been put in place to create the FiberCop network after long negotiation, and the supply agreements with Fastweb and Tiscali.

FiberCop is the proposed joint venture for Telecom Italia’s fixed network assets as well as those of Flash Fiber – the joint between Telecom Italia and Fastweb, which is owned by Swisscom.

Long haul

Italy’s government has been pushing for a single national company to provide wholesale fibre broadband infrastructure for a considerable time, by pulling all the retail fibre assets together and combining them with those of wholesale fibre provider Open Fiber.

Assuming the plan receives all the necessary approvals, AccessCo will be formed, but there is determination among the relevant authorities that it will not be dominated by Telecom Italia.

Telecom Italia currently own FiberCop outright, but the plan is for private equity firm KKR to acquire a 37.5% stake, and Fastweb a 4.5% holding.

Enter Macquarie

To add to the protracted wrangling between so many parties, Australia’s Macquarie intends to acquire a stake of 40% to 50% in Open Fiber from Enel, the Italian energy firm. The Turin-based, state-backed Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) owns the rest.

Macquarie is expected to transfer some of its stake in Open Fiber to the FiberCop joint venture.

The saga continues.