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28 Feb 2023

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Italy's TIM CEO Calls for Bold Action to Develop Telco

MWC in Barcelona is baaaack. One of the first big events to cancel in 2020 as the covid-19 pandemic became real, MWC (also known in prior times as the Mobile World Congress) has struggled since that time to regain its footing.

This year it appears to have done so, and the head of a major European telco provider has wasted no time in restoring the event's prominence as a place where major announcements are made and discussions held.

Specifically, Gruppo TIM (formerly Telecom Italia) CEO Pietro Labriola said Europe is sailing into a “perfect storm” of increased demand, fading infrastructure, and over regulation. TIM is Italy's (and also Brazil's) largest telco, with annual revenues of more than $15 billion.

Time to Separate and Consolidate
Among other things, Labriola said in his keynote presentation to the MWC audience that telcos need to separate their infrastructure from their services, running each as separate, and quite different, businesses. He urged regulators to allow more market consolidation, and showed little love for legacy technology, citing as an example the presence of 40,000 payphones in Italy that he can't decommission while at the same time “we are talking about metaverse.”

IDCA Smart Nations Index Provides a View
Italy's telco and digital infrastructure lags much of the EU. The country currently ranks 44th among 147 nations in IDCA Smart Nations Research's inaugural EESG Digital Readiness of Nations Index, just ahead of the United States. Among 40 EU and other European nations covered by this research, Italy ranks 26th, just below Belarus and just above Romania.

The EESG Index integrates challenges facing nations with their Economy, Environment, Social structures, and Governments. The US is dragged down by its enormous carbon footprint and lackluster response to it.

In a view of this index that removes the Environment, Italy ranks near the bottom of European nations. Although its mobile network is very strong and its server density middling within the very strong European region, internet access and bandwidth trail most of the continent.

A General Warning
Pietro Labriola's warning was meant not just for his home country, though, as Europe has a need for less economic and infrastructure disparity, continued data growth, and a world in which developing nations in the Americas, Asia, and Africa plan to close the gap with investments in digital infrastructure in the coming years and decades. As he noted in Barcelona, “Inaction is not an option. It’s time for more than words; we need facts and bold decisions.”

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