On 5G, broadband and a single network, there is little promise to make up for the delays

On 5G, broadband and a single network, there is little promise to make up for the delays

On 5G

If everything had gone as planned, the national investment plan for ultra-broadband launched in 2016 by the then Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, should have been completed in 2022. With Italy finally connected with fast networks. Eight years ahead of the European Commission's deadline: 2030. And yet we are still on the high seas. The new broadband strategy, baptized in 2021 by the Draghi government and funded with 6.7 billion from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Pnrr), sets the goal for 2026. On the other hand, two years have passed between the tenders for infrastructures and the first construction sites. And stomach ache between politics, companies, Tim on the one hand and Open Fiber (wanted by Renzi) on the other, single network proposals.

Not that the previous measures had paid off. Since 2009, broadband plans have been lagging behind at a slow pace that does not honor the technology they are supposed to deliver. The results? In the 2022 report of the European Commission on the digitalization index of the economy and society (Desi) we read that "as regards connectivity, progress has been made in terms of spreading broadband services and building the network", but "There remain some shortcomings with regard to coverage of very high-capacity networks (including fiber to the user's premises), which is still far behind the European average, as well as with respect to the digital decade's goal of universal coverage by 2030 ".

As of July 31, Infratel, the company of the Ministry of Economic Development that has the broadband game in hand, recorded that since the launch of the national plan there are "4,044 municipalities in marketing", in which, that is, operators can sell online services to customers (2,313 more than in December 2020), 2,312 those successfully tested (1,685 more than December 2020), 6,894 construction sites (+3,179). 132 Municipalities have received the official certification of completion of the works from the work manager. There is a lack of workers for the construction sites, but also materials slowed down by the bottlenecks of supplies.

There is, in short, to roll up your sleeves. Also because on the latest generation mobile networks, 5G, Italy has burned the advantage it had achieved by assigning all the useful frequencies in block in 2018. With the Pnrr, 2 billion funds are arriving, but the emission limits are still among the most stringent in Europe, well below the safety thresholds, frequencies for private 5G have not been licensed and two years after the boom in municipalities against antennas, telephone companies are still engaged in appeals to enforce own reasons. However, finding opposition in mayors of all political colors, against which no national leader has ever spoken.

How do parties intend to face the future of telecommunications? Only the Democratic Party, Lega, + Europa the Action-Italia viva ticket propose concrete recipes in view of the elections, while the People's Union and Italexit overlook the theme:

Democratic Party Lega Action-Italia viva + Europe The other positions on the right The other positions on the left Rete unica and Tim Those who are making private 5G In Europe there are 55 trials of fifth-generation private mobile networks. Especially in Germany and in the industrial field. The advantages for companies, who dream of a business worth 8 billion Democratic Party The recipe of the party led by Enrico Letta hinges on a National Fund for the right to a digital connection, where 1.2 billion savings can be channeled from one of the chapters of expenditure of mission 1 of the PNRR (the one dedicated to digital), although it is not clear how, and the proceeds of "a new tender on 5G frequencies", auctioning off the 3.8-4.2 gigahertz (GHz) and possibly 60 megahertz bands (MHz) of the 3.6-3.8 GHz band of Defense in licensed sharing. In the past, these competitions have been very profitable for the state coffers. In 2018, the raises for 5G auctions totaled 6.5 billion.

The funds raised would serve to "encourage the passage of families to ultra-broadband networks (covering one-off fixed costs of migration / activation of new line) "," finance the vertical cabling of buildings in optical fiber and the preparation of equipment for "smart buildings" and the Internet of things ", also for energy saving systems; purchase a computer for all middle, high school, high school, college and university students with low or middle income. The latter proposal, however, without a clear indication of the number of potential beneficiaries, risks remaining on paper. The Democratic Party also proposes a "platform for the conversion of companies in crisis and training of workers to support the development of fiber infrastructures financed by the PNRR".

Lega Il Carroccio announces the "switch off from copper by 'year 2030 ". Nothing exceptional, given that it is the aim of the European Union. More than anything else, the League puts its hands forward: its Minister of Economic Development, Giancarlo Giorgetti, in recent months had branded the goal of wiring Italy by fiber by 2026 as an illusion. The League proposes a "digital federalism" , entrusting the presidents of regions and autonomous provinces to the "commissioner for connectivity for the creation of the single network" (which also makes clear the position on the networks of Open Fiber and Tim) and the appointment of a Mister Antenna (but why not Miss? ), that is a "third figure", appointed by local authorities, "who identifies the positioning and installation of technological infrastructures so as not to leave the choice of sites to companies alone and simplify the authorization process". The League could propose a test in Veneto, the region where it governs and where the opposition to 5G antennas, in many municipalities led by the Carroccio, has been heavy.

Action-Italy alive The ticket between Carlo Calenda and Matteo Renzi is the only one to mention an “adjustment” of the electromagnetic emission thresholds to European parameters, in order to be more competitive. The Italian limits are well below the warning threshold. The two parties insist on coverage with fiber to the home, 5G and incentives for smart buildings, "with long-term tax levers, such as discounts in inheritance taxes and in the calculation of surplus value in the event of resale".

+ Europe Emma Bonino's party proposes to rewrite the tenders for fiber networks and 5G, "expanding the number of operators allowed to install systems (for example, infrastructure managers in the area such as motorway or railway operators) and facilitating cooperation agreements with managers between infrastructure and service operators ". In the case of market failure areas, the idea is to launch tenders to allocate incentives to "companies subject to the supervision of a regulatory authority", which could be the same guarantor of communications.

The map of Italian municipalities that block 5G The other positions on the right The program of the right-wing alliance (Fratelli d'Italia, Forza Italia, Lega and Noi moderati) limits itself to mentioning "upgrading and development of digital infrastructures and extension of the bandwidth ultra-wide spread throughout Italy ”and the“ defense of national strategic infrastructures ”in reference to the match on Tim and the spin-off of the network.

The other positions on the left The 5 Star Movement, which has always been pro-digital, is no more than a simple assumption: “National coverage with ultra-broadband”. Little, considering that the leader Giuseppe Conte, as prime minister, has passed the rule to block the municipalities no 5G. Also Possible by Giuseppe Civati ​​merely reiterates that it is "necessary to rapidly complete the coverage of the connection network that bridges the digital divide between North and South and peripheral and central areas".

Tim and only network The fall of government led by Mario Draghi weighs on the project of a single network, in which Tim's infrastructures converge, according to the spin-off plan of the CEO Pietro Labriola, and those of Open Fiber. When Flavio Cattaneo was at the helm of the former state monopolist, intending to develop a twin network to that of the then Enel Open Fiber after losing the Infratel tenders, the government, in the person of the Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, he was piqued for the useless duplication.

On the single network, everyone seems to agree, from the Democratic Party to the Brothers of Italy. Giorgia Meloni's party, however, writes in the program that it wants “public ownership of the networks on which companies will be able to offer services under free competition, starting with that of communications”. In the case of the single network, as the deputy Alessio Butti explained to Key4biz, it means leaving the single network in charge of Tim, where that of Open Fiber would also converge, unbundling the services and putting the company under the majority control of Cassa Depositi e loans, i.e. from the state. A position that is echoed in the Italian Left-Green Europe line: "Return to public control of all infrastructural networks and essential services".

Even the Democratic Party is in favor of "forms of aggregation and integration efficient networks, in order to avoid inefficient duplication of investments ", but does not specify the form that the company will have to take, although it recalls the prerogatives of the golden power, the option of control over the sale of strategic assets abroad by of the government. On the contrary, + Europa calls for a review of the golden power, "an instrument that must not be extended in an abnormal way to intra-European operations", as well as to reconsider the role of CDP, in favor of "tools that allow the growth and aggregation of private companies, in particular through the opening of capital to private equity funds ". In short, leaving room for the market.

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