Wind Tre to spend €6bn on 5G as tower sale rumours return

18 March 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Italian mobile operator Wind Tre is to spend €6 billion over the next five years on upgrading its 4.5G network to 5G, said CEO Jeffrey Hedberg on Friday.

At the same time rumours have floated again that the company is considering floating off its tower business and selling its data centres.

News of the tower strategy has resurfaced from time to time over the two years since CK Hutchison took over Veon’s Wind in Italy and merged it with its own Tre (Three) operation.

In October 2018 the Bloomberg news agency said CK Hutchison was carrying out a strategic review of its tower business, said to be worth about $1 billion. In February this year informed comment said that, instead of selling the whole business, now Hutch would sell a minority stake.

This week’s version, still unconfirmed, gives the new unit a name – Pisa, after the city with the leaning tower – and says the group is looking at selling a 49% stake in the business, which has 7,000 towers. At the same time Wind Tre would sell off its data centres, say the reports.

Meanwhile Hedberg spoke at a Road to 5G event in Milan, where he talked of trials with wholesale carrier Open Fiber and Chinese equipment vendor ZTE. Wind Tre’s trials are in the cities of L’Aquila and Prato, he said.

Hedberg said: “Without fifth-generation infrastructures it is not possible to support the spread of the most advanced smart services. This is a crucial step in the path of economic development, which sees our company leading the 5G experimentation in Prato and L’Aquila, with the implementation of 5G-enabled use cases of great technological and social value.”

He listed services in the areas of monitoring of buildings, e-health, smart security, electric vehicles and crime control.

Open Fiber CEO Elisabetta Ripa said that the wholesale carrier, a joint venture of electricity company Enel and state investment bank CDP, “is accelerating the deployment of fibre to allow Italy to be ready for the challenges of the gigabit society”.