A lobby group for Italy’s telecoms industry called on the government to delay a €4.8 billion payment for 5G spectrum licences as the nation’s operators continue to battle cut-throat competition in the market.

Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 reported Asstel, which lobbies on behalf of the Italian telecoms supply chain, asked for the payments to be spread over three years to help relieve the pressure on the embattled operators. As things stand, the payment is due this year.

Reuters stated a letter from Asstel head Massimo Sarmi to Italy’s Industry Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti cited stiff price competition which led to a steady drop in revenue and put operator margins under pressure.

Iliad Italia, Telecom Italia, Vodafone Italia and WindTre splashed out a total of €6.5 billion on 5G-suitable frequencies in 2018. The auction raised €4 billion more than the minimum amount targeted by the government and has come in for considerable criticism from commentators and domestic trade unions over the high cost of the spectrum.

Life has not been easy for the operators since the auction and market consolidation could now be on the cards, although recent efforts by Iliad to buy Vodafone have so far come to nothing.

Telecom Italia, meanwhile, is trying to fend off a near €11 billion offer from investors KKR and is on the cusp of presenting a new industrial strategy in the hope of establishing a firmer commercial footing.