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TIM turns to wholesale wireless provider to expand coverage

Luca Spada Eolo.jpg

Italy’s TIM is to use a community-owned wholesale wireless provider, Eolo, to improve its rural broadband coverage.

The two have signed a memorandum of understanding has been signed for Eolo to provide wholesale fixed wireless access (FWA) in Italy’s so-called white – that is, unserved – areas.

Luca Spada (pictured), president and founder of Eolo, said: “The partnership with TIM represents an important step in Eolo’s development plan, in which the wholesale market will play an increasingly central and strategic role in providing ultrabroadband services for rural and suburban areas of Italy.”

Eolo already provides FWA services directly to residential customers, at prices starting from €24.90 a month for up to 30Mbps. It charges €29.90 a month for speeds up to 100Mbps or 1Gbps, depending on the technology used in the area. TIM has not disclosed what it will charge customers. 

Eolo’s ultrabroadband coverage already reaches over 6,500 Italian municipalities and 79% of homes in rural or low-density areas, said the company, whose name is the Italian version of Aeolus, the god of the winds in ancient mythology.

TIM, formerly Telecom Italia, and Eolo will start a trial of the service “by the end of October, aiming to carry out the appropriate analyses and field tests and define the technical and operating procedures”, said the companies this morning.

Luigi Gubitosi, TIM’s CEO, said: “The understanding, in addition to confirming our commitment and desire to become the driving force in the country’s digitisation process, will also enable us to start testing, as a consortium, new ways of accessing FWA services, improving our capacity to contribute to the objectives of the ‘Italia a 1 Giga’ [Italy at 1Gbps] plan which is part of the government’s strategy in the deployment of ultrabroadband.”

Eolo changed its legal status in April 2021 to become a società benefit (benefit company), a legal form introduced that identifies companies that, in addition to profit, pursue specific purposes of common benefit.

Spada said: “FWA … represents the only viable alternative for offering very high-capacity services in all those areas where it is not technically or financially feasible to build a wired fibre network.”

Gubitosi said: “We are certain that thanks to partnerships of this magnitude we will foster the spread of connectivity among citizens, businesses and the public administration, at the same time supporting the development of the digital skills necessary for the country’s growth.”

According to Eolo’s website it has 3,000 base stations that connect over 1.2 million consumers, companies and public administration bodies. It employs 15,000 people, including installers, commercial partners and collaborators.

One of its shareholders is Searchlight Capital Partners, one of whose partners is Ajit Pai, former chairman of the US telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He joined Searchlight in April.