Cable never gained a foothold in Italy, writes our sister publication Faultline, and is a unique market in Europe.
Circumstances created by historic TV spectrum rights mean that cable is losing out to terrestrial and satellite.
Consequently, the telcos have become the dominant force in broadband, and are now in the process of upgrading their networks to higher bandwidth lines, as the Italian government pushes on with national technological infrastructure projects.
Milan: promise of 300 Mbps broadband speeds
Telecom Italia (TI) has announced the availability of 300 Mbps FTTH broadband in Milan called Smart Fibra.
It is priced at €39 ($43) per month. Outside the initial launch districts, a 100 Mbps service will be available to residents that live there via TI’s FTTC (cabinet) infrastructure.
The move comes after G.fast trials with Sckipio-powered Adtran, and ahead of a renewed push into Italy from Vodafone.
TI said it has installed 1.2 million kilometers of fiber in the first three quarters of 2015, which is in addition to a project with the Italian government that aims to add FTTH broadband to a hundred cities by 2018. That national expansion gives TI access to potential fiber customers at a national scale – and TI is currently aiming to upgrade 75% of its national infrastructure to FTTC by 2017.
Vodafone Partners Up to Keep Up in Italy
Vodafone is TI’s nearest rival, and has recently signed an agreement in partnership with Vimpelcom’s Italian mobile phone division Wind with Metroweb, in order to build a fiber network in Italy to challenge TI. In addition, Italian electrical utility Enel gave the go-ahead to a plan to set up a subsidiary to build a wholesale fiber optic network – but now the rumors seem to indicate that Vodafone has gotten in on the action, likely looking to turn this into a national Vodafone network, or at least wedge its foot firmly in the door.
G.fast to TI’s Rescue
To stave off Vodafone’s encroaching presence, and local fiber-rival FastWeb, TI will have to turn to G.fast – effectively an evolution of VDSL that promises fiber-like speeds over short distances of good-quality copper lines. Trials with Adtran back in 2014 were made public, but the company has remained quiet about it G.fast experiments since. The new Smart Fibra announcement contains no reference to the new communications technology.
The greatest benefit of G.fast is that the operator doesn’t have to change anything in the home, aside from the CPE, and can continue using the copper lines that leave the cabinets – provided that they are of sufficient quality, and are within the optimal distance for G.fast to work properly.
With the existing line and a new gateway, the customer experiences an immediate boost to their line speed and bandwidth, while the operator only has to worry about upgrading the line to the cabinet and the hardware inside it.
This would hopefully avoid the home visits and call-center costs that are typically associated with these upgrades. By building out fiber to the cabinet itself, and relying on G.fast to provide the triple-digit downlink to the home, a telco is able to avoid the capex of bringing individual fiber connections to every single home.
In addition, the complementary nature of the current crop of G.fast chipsets means that a simultaneous VDSL and G.fast deployment can be …
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