According to Agcom, Italy’s fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) lines finally outnumber its fixed wireless access (FWA) units for the first time

National regulator Agcom has now revealed the extent to which FTTH connections are improving throughout Italy, showing that a 30 Mbps fixed internet speed is now far more accessible today than it was four years ago.


According to Agcom’s figures, the number of Italian’s with access to a connection of this quality or better was up to 62% of all broadband connections in Q2 2020, an increase of 51% compared to the same period in 2016. A major part of this transformation is the shift from copper to fibre across the country; the stats showed that around 86.5% of the fixed connections in June 2016 were on copper lines, while the number has dropped to 41.2% today.


Despite this improvement, the overall use of broadband in Italy remains painfully low compared to its European rivals; the Digital Economy and Society Index Report 2020 puts Italy 25th in terms of its citizens’ internet usage, noting that around 16% of Italians had never been online.


This is, at least in part, some of the government’s motivation for backing the merger of Open Fiber and TIM, which they claim would prevent unnecessarily duplicated deployment of infrastructure and help to rapidly reach the government’s national fibre targets. However, the proposed deal would put the controlling stake of the merged entity in TIM’s hands, creating something of a fibre monopoly in the country, something that regulators are loath to allow. The regulators claim that it was in fact that presence of Open Fiber as a fibre contender that actually spurred TIM to increase its fibre deployment in the first place and allowing the ex-incumbent to do away with its competitor would leave it with little incentive to accelerate its fibre plans.


When it comes to broadband market shares in Italy, TIM is already the dominant player by a significant margin, holding a 42.2% share, down 0.7% year-on-year (YoY). The ex-incumbent is followed by a trio of operators all holding similar stakes in the market:  Vodafone with 16.6% (up 0.4% YoY), Fastweb with 15.1% (up 0.1% YoY), and WindTre with 14.0 percent (no change YoY).


The market is rounded out by three smaller players: Linkem with 3.8% (up 0.2% YoY), Eolo on 2.8% (up 0.4% YoY), and Tiscali with 2.4 percent (down 0.3% YoY). 


While improving fibre penetration is surely Agcom’s principle concern right now, the regulator faces additional challenges. There has been one area of internet usage which has seen a stark growth during the lockdown period in Italy: illegal streaming.


According to Agcom president Giacomo Lasorella, speaking on a webinar on Monday, lockdown has precipitated a 60% increase in content streaming overall, though he warns not all of it is legal. In the last year, Agcom has reportedly received 2,400 notifications of piracy, ultimately leading them to give 1,500 orders to disable access.


 “In Italy, every month of detention during the pandemic, according to data from the APA [Associazione Produttori Audiovisivi], has generated over 100 million euros in damages in the film sector,” he said in a translated statement.


Agcom has said it has a leading role in preventing piracy and respecting the rights of all stakeholders, from copyright holders to users and providers. 


“The Authority has long been committed to fighting piracy,” said Lasorella. “The previous council has achieved very important results in the protection of creativity. In particular with the adoption of the regulation on the protection of copyright, a text that is now recognized as an international best practice."


As the country waits anxiously for the outcome of the proposed merger between TIM and Open Fiber, Agcom was quick to reiterate its commitment to ensuring operators will gain access to the country’s fibre infrastructure on equal terms.


“The increase in broadband is a challenge for politics and Agcom,” said Lasorella. “I do not go into the question of the single network, but I limit myself to affirming that the authority will play its full part, to guarantee ” online access to operators on equal terms and quality access for citizens. Guaranteeing development means identifying tools to preside over the new digital agora without compressing freedoms.”



How would the proposed merger between TIM and Open Fiber affect Italy’s fibre plans? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Italy 

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