Iliad prepares launch of fixed-line services in Italy - sources

MILAN, June 3 (Reuters) - French mobile operator Iliad is close to signing a deal with broadband network company Open Fiber to offer fixed-line data services in Italy, sources said on Wednesday.

The move comes as COVID-19 underlines the importance for businesses of fast fiber connections to streamline operations.

Over the past few years, fixed-line telephony has been under pressure in Italy but the pandemic has changed perspectives as companies embrace smartworking and look set to enhance their use of digital networks.

“Open Fiber and Iliad have been talking for several months and an agreement now looks close”, one of the sources said.

Another source confirmed talks are ongoing but cautioned no deal had been signed yet.

Iliad, which launched its low-price mobile offer for Italy two years ago, said in the past it was looking to provide its Italian customers with a fixed-line offer by 2024.

With Comcast unit SKY set to launch its broadband offer in Italy this month, Iliad’s foray would further increase competition in the fixed-line segment, adding pressure to former monopoly Telecom Italia, which still dominates the market in this area.

News that Iliad and state-backed Open Fiber were in advanced talks over a deal on fixed-line services was reported first by Milano Finanza daily.

Telecom Italia’s shares were down 3.7% by 1145 GMT on Wednesday against a 1.7% rise in Italy’s all-share index .

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Kirsten Donovan