Ultra-Broadband Plan – completion of the intervention in the “white areas” and start of Phase II

The Italian Government has deemed it necessary to accelerate the creation of a national digital infrastructure that will ensure that our country achieves the European objective of a fully inclusive digital society.

The path outlined by the European Commission has, however, ultimately led to an increase in the target coverage of the national population with new telecommunications technologies.

White Areas

On 3 April 2019, the European Commission finally approved the “large national ultra-broadband project – White Areas” for an eligible cost of 941 million euros.

As a whole, it is worth recalling that the National Plan for Ultra-Broadband provides for a public intervention that covers the national territory distinguishing between:

  • ‘white’ market failure areas, in which no investments by private operators are present;
  • ‘grey’ and ‘black’ or competition areas, where one or more ultra-broadband networks are already present, in order to achieve, also in these areas, an important qualitative leap forward for the realisation of ultra-fast gigabit networks.

The Plan is therefore divided into two phases. The first concerns the implementation of measures to support the infrastructure of white areas. Then, in the second phase, tools for the development of ultra-fast networks in the black and grey areas of the country will be implemented.

The first phase, completed with regard to the awarding of the works by the implementing entity Infratel Italia S.p.A. – a company 100% controlled by Invitalia S.p.A. and supervised by the Ministry of Economic Development – is currently under construction by the Open Fiber S.p.A. concessionaire which, as is well known, was awarded the three tenders.

The Plan has, however, experienced some slowdowns in progress due to multiple factors, such as the delay in obtaining permits and authorizations at local level and, therefore, in the transition to executive design, currently at an advanced stage in all territories.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Infratel constantly monitor the implementation phases put in place by the Open Fiber concessionaire.

Phase II Ultra-Broadband project

The country’s digital divide is clearly evident on the basis of the index developed by the European Commission – the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) – according to which the share of subscriptions to at least 100 Megabits per second in Italy is around 14%, compared to a European average of almost 26%.

Every year, Infratel Italia S.p.A. carries out, on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Development, a consultation among operators to verify their investment intentions and update the coverage of the Ultra-Broadband service in the country’s grey and black areas over the next three years.

The consultation began on 18 January and ended on 15 May 2019, after completion of the interaction and clarification phase with the operators.

The new mapping by street number of the country’s Grey and Black Areas following the monitoring concluded by Infratel Italia, i.e. the updating of the coverage of the areas of the national territory already identified in previous Consultations as Grey and Black NGA Areas, is available at the link:
Monitoring of Black and Grey Areas 2019 Public Consultation  – Mapping by street number

Download the outcome of the 2019 public consultation

The operators provided the data for each street address – over 19.8 million – falling in grey and black areas in 4,250 Italian municipalities for 25.8 million real estate units.

The remaining 12 million street addresses in over 6,700 Italian municipalities are the subject of public intervention in ‘white areas’.

This picture highlights the existence of a potential technological gap among the areas of the country that could, in view of the 2025 objectives of the Gigabit society, lead to a slowdown in the process of modernisation of technological infrastructures and the adoption of new generation services in Italy.

Also building on this data, COBUL has formally launched Phase II of the National Strategy to accelerate on this front as well, investing strategic portions of the national territory and anticipating the need to stimulate demand for digital services.

Phase II interventions are concentrated on supporting demand for the activation of ultra-fast services in all areas of the country and the spread of Ultra-Broadband infrastructures in the areas known as grey areas of technological failure.

According to the estimates of Infratel Italia S.p.A., the total need to intervene in grey areas of the country by installing Gigabit infrastructure amounts to 5.1 billion euros.

The national resources certainly available to date to support the two interventions now mentioned amount to about 2.7 billion euros.

It is a challenging project, involving a higher degree of complexity and financial resources compared to those employed for the one currently underway in white areas, which requires the collaboration and cooperation of all actors involved: Government and Regions first and foremost, and all public levels, in the wake of what has been done so far.