Italians to get low cost wide-band network

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ROME--Small Italian telecom E-Via has unveiled an ambitious $1.3 billion three-year plan to provide the country with its first wide-band network for data transmission.

It hopes to link 100 Italian cities with a relatively low cost structure -- something analysts say could help facilitate more widespread Internet use in Italy. Currently, connecting to the Internet requires local phone charges, which can cost as much as 18 cents per minute. Most of E-Via's cables will run alongside highways to help keep down maintenance costs.

"Our plan is to be the carrier's carrier with high-speed transmission facilities nationwide," says E-Via Vice Chairman Elserino Piol.

The project will lay the first of what it says will be 8,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables in April, with $125 million in start-up cash. The company has several multinational and Italian backers, including U.S.-based Goldman Sachs and General Electric Capital, and Italian Internet giant Tiscali.

Mario Gineli, a telecommunications analyst with investment house Hildebrandt & Ferrar, says: "The plan is very ambitious, and it will not be cheap. But if it develops the way the company plans, I think we will see it attract customers from classes and industries who would never consider the Internet today. The potential market is very large."

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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