Insurance company to invest €300m in Austrian rural broadband

19 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Allianz, the German insurance company, has agreed to invest €300 million in wholesale rural broadband in Austria.

It is still negotiating the final terms of the investment, in Niederösterreichische Breitband (NÖ Breitband, Lower Austria Broadband) but aims to finalise the package in the next two months and sign the deal by the end of 2019.

Christian Fingerle, chief investment officer of Allianz Capital Partners, said: “We are convinced that together we can make an important contribution to the supply of rural areas of Lower Austria with fast internet. The infrastructure set up together with the province of Lower Austria will be an important public interest in the future in these regions.”

The province of Lower Austria is the rural region around the national capital, Vienna. It has a population of 1.6 million and the broadband project focuses on communities of 5,000 or fewer.

Jochen Danninger and Helmut Miernicki, joint managing directors of NÖ Breitband, based in Sankt Pölten, said: “We are confident that with this investor we will be able to provide 100,000 households with broadband internet between 2020 and 2022.”

NÖ Breitband – operating as NÖGig – has been testing its model in four areas, Thayaland, Triestingtal, Ybbstal and Waldvierter StadtLand, with €5 million from the province of Lower Austria.

These areas had low broadband penetration, and the trials were aided by community cooperation and the opportunity to collaborate with other civil engineering projects.  

This budget was used to connect buildings in selected areas within each region.

The province of Lower Austria says it has set itself the goal of “achieving the widest possible coverage of sustainable broadband”, focusing on areas where the free market does not provide fibre connections to households and businesses.

“Public-sector passive broadband infrastructure will be set up. NÖGig takes over this task on behalf of the state in close cooperation with the municipalities. The operation of the network is carried out by private companies (neutral network operators). The infrastructure remains in public hands.”

In the existing pilot, four service providers have been signing customers (see image): Waldviertler Stadtland, Zukunftsraum Thayaland, Triestingtal and Ybbstal Eisenstraße.

Allianz Capital Partners has invested in a number of infrastructure projects, though this is one of the few telecoms-related investments. It has a 49.99% stake in Altice’s SFR FTTH in France.