On February 18, 1998 the Communications Ministry has issued two individual licenses for the offering of fixed public voice telephony services in Italy, which officially close the era of Telecom Italia's monopoly on the basic telephony services. Following the liberalization set forth by the Telecommunications Regulation as of January 1, 1998 on public voice telephony services and the operation of fixed networks for the provision of such services, the Ministry has granted individual telecommunications licenses to Wind (joint venture between the Italian electrical utility company Enel, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom) and Infostrada (joint venture between Olivetti and the German operator Mannesmann). The two companies are expected to start the new services related to the licenses no sooner than June next.

Other foreign operators and joint ventures are expected to file other requests for the same services, and to enter the market in the next few months.

Telecom Italia is at the time being subject to competition in international and domestic liberalized telecommunications services from local operators and international carriers, mainly on strategic and new business customized value added services. It is expected that Telecom Italia will lose fixed telephony services market share as a consequence of the start up of the new licenses, in particular with respect to domestic fixed long distance traffic and outgoing fixed international calls.

The new licenses issued by the Ministry provide the right for Wind and Infostrada to install fixed public telecommunications networks and provide fixed voice telephony services. Nonetheless, the two operators will interconnect to Telecom Italia's or other alternative operators fixed network for the provision of their services throughout the Italian territory.

Under the Telecommunications Regulation the new fixed services will be accessed by means of carrier selection on a call-by-call basis, and relevant number portability between fixed operators should soon follow. As a result, users will choose specific carriers and will override such choices by means of call-by-call choices. According to the Communications Decree of July 1, 1997 the new numbering program will automatically identify the carriers, and dialing code "1" will precede national services, "3" will precede mobile services calls, "4" will precede national fixed local services and "0" will precede network domestic services. The code "00" will remain for international calls.

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