France-based operator Iliad (which uses the Free brand) said it made “good progress” in its plans for the launch of a new entrant into Italy’s mobile market, as momentum in its home market continued.
The company said that during 2017 it set up the technical architecture needed to launch in Italy, while also hiring 80 staff with an entire management team based in the country. Initial capital expenditure in the project stands at €314 million, including €50 million paid to Wind Tre for spectrum and €220 million paid to the government for the refarming of 1800MHz frequencies.
Iliad’s plan is to launch services in the country “before the summer”. Financial Times reported the company today (13 March) said “most” of its competitors in Italy are “in relatively bad shape”, with Telecom Italia and Wind Tre cited.
With regard to its French operation, Iliad said its Free unit was “France’s leading recruiter of mobile subscribers for the sixth year in a row”, with nearly 1 million net adds in 2017. In total, it had 13.7 million mobile subscribers, alongside more than 6.5 million broadband and ultrafast broadband subscribers.
Free also said 2017 was a “record year for deployment of the mobile network”. During the 12 months, it opened some 3,700 new 3G sites, taking the total to almost 12,200, and exceeding its original target of 12,000 by end-2017. It also equipped “over 4,300 4G sites” to use its 1800MHz frequencies and more than 700 with 700MHz spectrum, taking population coverage to 86 per cent.
The year also saw the €320 million acquisition of a 31.6 per cent stake in Republic of Ireland incumbent eir. Iliad said this “forms the basis of a strategic partnership with a leading operator, with a possibility of ultimately taking over control of the company thanks to a call option granted” – it has an option on a stake held by founder Xavier Niel’s NJJ Capital.
For the full year, the company reported a profit up 0.5 per cent to €405 million, following the “highly adverse effect” of an exceptional tax charge in France. Without this, profit from recurring operations increased by almost 20 per cent to €480 million.
Total revenue of €5 billion was up 5.6 per cent, with mobile revenue up 8.4 per cent to €2.2 billion.