The Italian telecommunications market is profitable and expanding. A number of proposed laws - discussed in separate entries on this data base - will eventually create a liberalized market in Italy, no longer dominated by a State monopoly, and open to private competition. Proposed legislation complies with European Union Law and schedules the complete opening of the market (including voice transmission services) for January 1, 1998, although the Antitrust Authority has suggested that this may be moved up to January 1, 1997. As we discuss in a separate entry, other telecommunication services, such as data transmission and closed system voice transmission, have already been liberalized by the Presidential Decree of September 4, 1995, no.420.
Proposed legislation would prohibit the existing State monopoly, Telecom Italia S.p.A. from purchasing the alternative telecommunications networks now owned by the State Highway Company, the State Electric Company ("ENEL"), and the partially privatized State Oil and Gas Company ("ENI"). Purchase of such networks would give a private telecommunications company an immediate, functioning communications network on which to build. Each of the above networks is reported to have national extension.
The Italian financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore of February 22, 1996, has reported that British Telecom is working precisely on the project of preparing itself as a private competitor for the liberalized telecommunications market in Italy (mobile services have already been liberalized, and a consortium called Omnitel, in which both Olivetti S.p.A. and Bell Atlantic have shareholdings, is the first private competitor in that field). The newspaper reports that British Telecom, through its Italian subsidiary Albacom, has already purchased the national communications network of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro ("BNL"), and is now negotiating for the possible purchase of ENI's network, "consisting of copper and fiber optic cable, radio bridges, and a mobile circuit of 200 antennas and 3500 terminals all along the gas pipe lines and also penetrating inner city areas," which is where one might assume that BNL's network is most represented.
British Telecom's strategy would allow it to begin providing liberalized services immediately and prepare to provide voice transmission services in 1998, independently of the Italian government's schedule for the privatization of Telecom Italia. Remaining, major networks are owned, as mentioned above, by the State Railway Company, the State Highway Company, and ENEL. Olivetti, Bell Atlantic, and others have formed a joint venture named Infostrada, which will provide closed circuit services and also prepare itself for the complete liberalization of the market in 1998.
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