Italian firm to build consumer TDD LTE network in Rome

23 February 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Italian fixed broadband operator Linkem is to build an ultra-broadband wireless network in Rome offering residential customers up to 400 megabits a second in a city where the alternative service is over TIM’s copper network.

The company, which is backed with €400 million funding from two US private equity groups, already has a WiMax network – equipped by Huawei – that delivers services to 330,000 customers in smaller Italian cities, but for Rome it is moving to TDD LTE technology with the network supplied by ZTE.

“We identified ZTE as the most interesting partner,” said Davide Rota, CEO of Linkem. The company plans to extend its TDD LTE network to Florence and Bologna in 2016-17 and then “probably Milan” by the endo of 2017. Construction in Rome will start in April, he added.

Rome is the main target, with 1.4 million households and an existing infrastructure limited to DSL technologies over copper – and a below-average number of fixed phone users who can access that technology.

Subscribers will be asked to pay €24 a month for unlimited access, said Rota. “Consumers are confused when they buy data packages.”

Jeff Libshutz, managing director of private equity fund Ramius, and a board member of Linkem, said that, with €400 million funding, “we have spent most of what we need”. The co-investor in the project is Leucadia, he said.

“Both Ramius and Leucadia are long-term investors. We like to build companies. This is our largest single telecoms investment,” said Libshutz, who added that there will “maybe” be a public offer of Linkem shares “in a year or so”.