Vodafone aims $10bn 'Project Spring' war chest at Italy’s 4G, fibre market

Vodafone CEO sees consolidation as inevitable as it readies to shake up Europe's telecoms market.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Italy will be a main focus of Vodafone's $10 billion 'Project Spring' investments in European broadband following the UK operator's $130bn sale of its stake in a joint venture with US network Verizon.

Vodafone looks set fund new investments in 4G and fibre following this week's sale of its share of Verizon Wireless. The deal is helping fund its $10bn war chest, known as Project Spring, aimed at upgrading its networks in Europe and emerging markets over the next three years.

Under the agreement, Vodafone also acquired Verizon's 23 percent stake in Vodafone Italy, making it Vodafone's second largest market in Europe and a prime focus for the project, according to Reuters

"Italy will have a big part in Project Spring, with faster 4G and the rollout of more fibre — either through our [infrastructure] or in collaboration with Telecom Italia — at sustainable prices," Vodafone Group chief executive Vittorio Colao told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The broader goal of Project Spring is to extend its 4G networks to reach 90 percent of Europe by 2017, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

The plans to target Italy come amid Vodafone's ongoing 4G LTE network rollout, which reached 21 cities this April, rivalling incumbent Telecom Italia's own LTE deployment in Italy. The LTE rollout is occurring alongside Telecom Italia's fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the home (FTTH) project, which had passed 2.8 million households in June

The pair have locked horns over Italy's fixed line broadband, with Vodafone suing Telecom Italia in August for allegedly impeding fixed-line competition between 2008 and 2013. Vodafone is seeking over €1bn in damages.  

According to Colao, telecoms consolidation in Europe is "inevitable".

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