Italy’s deputy PM calls for Open Fiber to be merged with TIM’s broadband net

27 July 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Italy’s deputy prime minister wants to spin off TIM’s fixed broadband infrastructure and merge it with Open Fiber’s wholesale-only network.

Luigi di Maio (pictured), who is also industry minister, told the Italian parliament in Rome yesterday that the government is looking at the potential advantages of a merger.

“We are looking at the Open Fiber model but for the spin-off of the network we need to understand what we’re talking about, we’re talking of a corporate asset,” said Di Maio, who is also leader of M5S, the Five-Star Movement, one of the members of the Italian coalition government.

He emphasised that he was looking at the proposal “from the point of view of the strategic nature of infrastructures”. Di Maio said the government was interested in creating a single wholesale-only carrier, so that operators could compete on services.

TIM, the former Telecom Italia, has confirmed over the past few months that it is looking at spinning off the network, as well as perhaps selling off Sparkle, its international fibre network – though Di Maio did not mention Sparkle yesterday. The sale of both would get TIM out of a long-running disagreement with the last and the new government, which have both been unhappy with the number of non-Italian shareholders in the company.

A state bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, is joint owner of Open Fiber alongside utility Enel, and also owns a stake of more than 4% in TIM. Enel, though, is known to be against a merger of its fibre network with TIM’s.

M5S became the largest party in the Italian elections in March 2018. Di Maio, only 32, became a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in 2013 and became its youngest vice-president.