As Telecom Italia (TIM) continues to grapple with plans to hive off its fixed network assets and potentially merge the network with rival broadband provider Open Fiber, a new fiber provider, has quietly launched services in Italy — using Open Fiber support and network infrastructure.
After much speculation in recent months, Virgin Fibra finally emerged into the light of day with a new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) offer for under €30 per month.
The Virgin Fibra Pura plan is priced at €29.49 per month, alongside a €19.99 activation fee. According to the Virgin Fibra website, connectivity is currently available in 271 cities and a further 7,000 small and medium-sized municipalities. The network passes around 11 million homes.
The new service introduces the familiar Virgin brand to the Italian telecoms market in yet another licensing deal by Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group.
In June, Bloomberg suggested that Tom Mockridge, the former CEO of Virgin Media in the UK, may have negotiated the license deal between Open Fiber and the Virgin Group. The Virgin brand is already licensed to Liberty Global for the UK and Ireland, and to Spanish operator Euskaltel, now owned by Másmovíl.
The launch of Virgin Fibra is not particularly good news for incumbent operators TIM, Vodafone Italia and WindTre as it brings yet another low-cost offer to an already extremely competitive market.
For example, Iliad Italia launched a low-cost fiber plan in January with a clear intention to cause further market disruption.
However, Italy needs to get more fiber to households. According to Italian telecoms market regulator AGCOM, FTTH accesses grew by about 620,000 units to a paltry 2.8 million in the first quarter of 2022. No wonder, then, that the telecom ministry recently pledged €3.7 billion for connecting 7 million homes to the gigabit-speed technology.
An FTTH Council Europe study in September 2021 reckoned Italy's full-fiber household penetration would hit 10% by the end of the year.
- Italy wants to fling €3.7B of taxpayer funds at fiber
- TIM soldiers on amid political turmoil
- Euskaltel gears up for national expansion under Virgin brand
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading