Fastweb wants to move faster; unveils $3.4B infrastructure plan

Italian broadband provider Fastweb has unveiled what it calls a "new 360 strategic vision." Dubbed "Tu sei future" (You are the future), the plan involves spending more than €3 billion (€3.4 billion) on network expansion up until 2025-26.

The sum represents a fairly big hike on Fastweb's current capex rate. For the nine months to September 30, 2021, the operator spent €439 million ($498 million) on network infrastructure and "customer-driven investments."

New targets wheeled out by Fastweb include reaching 12 million households and businesses with fixed wireless access (FWA) across 2,000 municipalities; passing 14.5 million people with fiber to the home (FTTH); and achieving 90% population coverage with 5G.

According to Fastweb, its "ultra FWA" network – with speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s – reached some 400 small to medium-size cities in "grey areas" of the country (where there is already some broadband competition) by the end of 2021. The operator's 5G network currently covers 45% of the population.

The official "Tu sei futuro" announcement did not mention the current extent of Fastweb's FTTH network, although CEO Alberto Calcagno seemed to indicate in a presentation – as reported by local media outlets – that the operator was now more willing to go head-to-head with rivals by rolling out fiber in places where other FTTH providers are already established.

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"We will obviously continue in fiber," he said, "which instead will focus on black areas."

Other Fastweb investment areas, as part of "Tu sei futuro," include data center expansion in Rome and Milan -- an additional 40 edge nodes – and to establish a new security operations center in Bari.

Going it alone

When asked about if he had any interest in consolidation in the hyper-competitive Italian market, Calcagno responded in a bullish fashion.

"We continue to move forward on our own," he said. "We are in a privileged position compared to all our competitors in that we are the only company in Italy that continues to grow consecutively and to produce cash." The plan, said the CEO, was still to "pursue a standalone strategy."

Fastweb does have a 4.5% minority interest in FiberCop, the last-mile infrastructure company set up by Telecom Italia (TIM) to facilitate the rollout of FTTH in Italy. Despite recent management upheaval at TIM, Calcagno reckoned FiberCop was moving ahead as planned.

During the first nine months of 2021, Fastweb's overall revenue increased 4.8% year-on-year, to €1.76 billion ($2 billion). Operating income before depreciation and amortization rose by 6%, to €602 million ($683 million), over the same period.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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