Having made its mark on the Italian mobile market over the past three years, Iliad has now confirmed it will add to its portfolio and launch fixed services in Italy in the coming months.

The French operator did not share an exact date, but in a statement accompanying its full-year results announcement pledged to launch its Italian fixed business “by summer 2021.”

The move has been on the cards for some time. In July last year Iliad brokered a deal with Italian state-owned fibre wholesaler Open Fiber to enable it to offer fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services. It will be a year or thereabouts since the announcement of that deal by the time Iliad’s fixed broadband offer comes to market, which is perhaps a little longer than we might have expected, but timing aside, the telco is about to make another serious play for customers in Italy. The establishment should be – and doubtless is – paying attention.

By the end of last year Iliad had 7.2 million mobile customers in Italy, having added close to 2 million over the previous 12 months. That’s a sizeable number for a company that launched as recently as May 2018 and equates to a market share of 9%, according to the company itself. Iliad also talked up its performance in Italy against the backdrop of Covid-19, which it described as “a less favourable context for a new entrant.” It has a point: switching mobile service provider to a newcomer is unlikely to be front-of-mind for many people during a global pandemic, in which reliable connectivity showed itself to be more important than ever.

Nonetheless, Iliad is growing in Italy, as its financial report shows. Revenues at the Italian business were up by 58% last year to €674 million, while the telco almost halved its EBITDAaL loss to €133 million. The company now expects to post positive earnings in Italy in the second half of this year, while its long-term goal remains to generate €1.5 billion in revenues there.

Iliad is also rolling out mobile network at pace. It added 4,000 mobile sites last year to take its total to 6,100 by year-end and upped its rollout target to 8,500 sites by the end of this year. By end-2023 it expects to gave 10,000-12,000 sites, a target it has brought forward by one year.

Strong growth in Italy helped push group turnover up by 10% to €5.87 billion last year, but France of course remains Iliad’s biggest market, where revenues inched up by 1.9% to just over €5 billion. The French business also reported strong EBITDAaL growth at 6% to €2 billion.

Subscriber growth has really slowed though, with the firm’s Free Mobile business adding just 63,000 customers last year; its net adds were impacted by the disconnection of some 100,000 customers in Q4 who had joined on €2 plans and had outstanding payments, Iliad said.

The telco’s performance on the fixed side was stronger, which bodes well for its chances in Italy. It posted its strongest fixed customer additions since 2015 at 262,000, fuelled by fibre momentum; its fibre base grew by over 1 million, a 34% increase in net adds on 2019 that took its overall fibre base to 2.8 million.

France comes in ahead of Italy in terms of homes passed by FTTH/B and in terms of absolute subscriptions; France had 10.5 million subs at the end of last year, according to estimates from the FTTH Council Europe and IDATE, while Italy had 1.9 million. In terms of household penetration France was at 35.5%, well ahead of the EU average, while Italy’s figure was well below at 7.1%.

It could well be that Iliad is joining the Italian fixed market at just the right time.




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