The Italian government has approved a EUR6 billion (USD6.7 billion) scheme to develop the country’s broadband networks. Domestic telcos will be offered incentives to encourage them to expand and upgrade their high speed internet infrastructure, with the funding coming from Italy and the European Union (EU). ‘This plan is based on the principle of technology neutrality,’ Bloomberg quoted Development Minister Federica Guidi as saying. ‘The market will choose the technology in order to achieve European digital agenda targets,’ she added. It has been confirmed that incumbent fixed line operator Telecom Italia will not be required to convert its entire copper PSTN network to fibre as part of the scheme.
As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last October, Italy’s government hopes to have a minimum 30Mbps connection available to all Italians by 2020 to help it meet EU digital agenda goals, with around half of the population able to access 100Mbps fibre-based services by that date. Wi-Fi access points will also be deployed to support the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks being rolled out by the country’s four cellular operators: Telecom Italia, Vodafone, Wind and 3 Italia. Italy has the dubious distinction of having the region’s lowest broadband household penetration figure, while the country also lags the rest of Europe on broadband speeds; a July 2014 report from the European Commission (EC) placed Italy last amongst EU member states ranked by penetration of 30Mbps and above fixed internet services, with less than 20% of the population able to access higher speed services.