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UPDATE 1- Italy's Open Fiber sees scope for network deal with TIM by October

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MILAN, June 10 (Reuters) - The head of Italy’s Open Fiber said on Friday a binding deal to combine the state-backed network’s assets with those of rival Telecom Italia can be reached by an end of October deadline “if all players show willingness”.

Last month Open Fiber’s top investor CDP clinched a preliminary agreement with former phone monopoly TIM to create a national single network operator under CDP control.

The project is seen by the Italian government as a way to avoid a costly duplication of investments to rollout fast fibre connections across the country.

CDP, which owns a 60% holding in Open Fiber, is also Telecom Italia’s second largest investor with a 10% stake.

“All the conditions to clinch a binding deal by October 31 are there, if all players show willingness”, Open Fiber Chief Executive Mario Rossetti said at a press briefing in Milan.

Rossetti added that the talks on a single network project are not affecting Open Fiber’s own standalone business plan, which had been presented in December and envisaged additional spending of about 11 billion euros ($11.6 billion) until 2031.

Launched in 2015 to help tackle Italy’s lack of high-speed internet, wholesale-only operator Open Fiber is on track to connect nearly half of a total of 31 million Italian households with full-fibre by the end of the year, Rossetti said.

The main hurdle facing Open Fiber in pursuing its rollout plans is labour shortages which effectively stopped work at hundreds of sites, Rossetti said.

With staff shortages acute in the telecoms and construction industries, Open Fiber needs about 8,000 workers, including technicians to lay fibre optic cables, for this year and next year, Rossetti said. To tackle the issue, Open Fiber has teamed up with motorway operator ASPI to jointly hire and train staff. It is also offering some jobs to prison inmates while looking to expand its hiring process beyond the European Union. ($1 = 0.9517 euros) (Reporting by Elvira Pollina, writing by Maria Pia Quaglia, editing by Gianluca Semeraro and Keith Weir)

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