Iliad to launch in Italy by the summer - Italy head to paper

MILAN (Reuters) - French mobile operator Iliad will launch in Italy by the summer and aims to become an “important” player in the market, the head of its Italian operations told daily la Repubblica in an interview on Tuesday.

The Italy launch, initially expected by the end of 2017 or early 2018, will be a major test for the French company, founded and majority-owned by billionaire Xavier Niel. Italy is Iliad’s first international venture besides a failed $15 billion bid for T-Mobile US.

It is also expected to put pressure on Italy’s biggest phone group Telecom Italia and the other operators in the country, Vodafone and Wind Tre. Each control around a third of the Italian mobile market.

“Our objective has always been to land by this summer, with the Iliad brand,” Benedetto Levi said in his first interview since being appointed in January.

“The idea is to distance ourselves from (traditional operators). We will do everything in a different and better way, with tariffs that will be cheaper and more transparent, without neglecting quality,” Levi said, criticizing other operators and saying Iliad should not be referred to as “low-cost”.

He added that Iliad aimed to become “important” in the country - but without disclosing targets - and that it already counted 100 staff and was hiring many people.

Iliad is aiming to grab a quarter of the Italian mobile market using the same cut-throat prices and straightforward contracts that conquered France, two sources familiar with its plan told Reuters last year.

Levi said that Iliad would have national coverage from the start, though initially using in part Wind Tre’s network.

Reporting by Giulia Segreti, editing by Louise Heavens