May 19, 2009 / 6:34 PM / 10 years ago

Italy adviser eyes T.Italia role in broadband growth

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian government adviser has offered three options to spur Italy’s broadband ambitions, one of which could involve a spinoff of Telecom Italia’s fixed-line network, according to a report.

The long-awaited report by consultant Francesco Caio was submitted to the Italian government in March, and has been posted on anti-secrecy website Wikileaks. It confirms details which a source familiar with the report told Reuters in March.

Analysts and investors had been awaiting the report to gauge its potential impact on Telecom Italia, Italy’s largest telecoms operator which relies on the network for a bulk of its earnings.

Telecom Italia’s shares rose in March when leaks of the report in newspapers said it excluded the prospect of the government forcibly spinning off the company’s network to help in the roll out of a nationwide high-speed fibre-optic network.

The report, which is non-binding, says current investment levels on broadband growth are not enough and suggests public investment of 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion euros to ensure most of the population has access to broadband technology.

“The speed of investment observed does not seem sufficient to assure the country a leadership position internationally,” the report said.

It does not address a spinoff of Telecom Italia’s fixed-line network directly, but says one option could be to create an integrated fibre-optic and copper national network for broadband coverage of 50 percent of households.

Such a plan would involve building on Telecom Italia’s existing network, the report says, which has led to speculation that this could mean choosing between various levels of separating the network from the company.

This option would require investment of 10 billion euros over 5 years, it said.

The other options cited in the Caio report involve creating a fibre-optic network to cover 25 percent of households, which would involve investment of 5.4 billion euros over four years.

A final option involves limited public investment and the constructino of a fibre-optic network on a local level.

Telecom Italia has in the past repeatedly denied it will spin off its network and Chief Executive Franco Bernabe has said any government intervention to force it to do so would be illegitimate.

Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo, Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Hans Peters

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