Fastweb and Metroweb have withdrawn from the Italian government’s tender to select a telco to provide ultra-broadband internet services in underserved areas of six regions. Four firms remain in the bidding: Telecom Italia (TIM), a consortium which includes ISPs Retelit and EOLO, plus two utility groups, Enel – via its Enel Open Fiber (EOF) unit – and Estra. The Italian government’s broadband vehicle Infratel is looking to offer a number of regional contracts to telcos to roll out high speed infrastructure, kicking off with the regions of Abruzzo, Molise, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Tuscany and Veneto.
While Metroweb has left the race as it is due to be merged into EOF, Fastweb is unhappy with the bidding rules and plans to continue its legal action to have the sale cancelled. Earlier this month the Swisscom subsidiary sought to postpone the contract awards, ahead of an appeal hearing on 14 December in which it is looking to overturn a clause which forbids companies from teaming up with rival telcos following the pre-qualification process. Fastweb also claims the tender process favours bidders such as EOF whose operations are not vertically integrated. While it failed with its initial legal challenge – seeing its appeal rejected by both the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio and the State Council – Fastweb is still looking to have the auction rules altered. In July this year the ISP created a partnership with TIM under which the two firms plan to invest EUR1.2 billion (USD1.36 billion) on the rollout of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technology.