Monday, February 19, 2007

FastWeb Shifting Gears

FastWeb reported its 2006 earnings yesterday. Its presentation reflected its transformation from a consumer oriented company to an enterprise oriented company that has been enabled by the completion of its network expansion. The details of its fourth quarter 2006 results are available at

FastWeb added 105 thousand subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2006, giving it a total of 1.062 million. Its ARPU per residential customer was €797 per year, which is about €100 less than 2005. The ARPU from video subscribers was €296 per year in the fourth quarter, which is about €20 less than 2005. The decreases are generally the result of the introduction of lower cost offerings.

FastWeb stated that the number of broadband connections in Italy grew from 6.8 million to 8.4 million in 2006. FastWeb's share grew from 11 to 13 percent and the share of the other competitive providers grew from 5 to 7 percent. Telecom Italia's share shrunk to 67 from 71 percent.

FastWeb will implement its agreement with Sky in Italy in April that will permit FastWeb to offer all of the Sky TV channels over its broadband network. It will also permit Sky to offer FastWeb broadband services. The FastWeb and Sky services will be billed separately. FastWeb will provide an integrated decoder that supports both FastWeb and Sky video content.

In the second half of 2007, Fastweb will offer a new self installed home networking capapbility for both the residential and the SOHO markets. It will use Ruckus Wireless MIMO WiFi technology that has been optimized for video traffic.

FastWeb is also working on a mobile component so that it can expand its triple play strategy to a quadruple play strategy. Its MVNO agreement with Vodafone is on hold while Vodafone waits for rulings on local number portability. FastWeb has declared that it will take an alternative path if the Vodafone deal falls through that could include acquisition or the deployment of its own mobile network.

FastWeb is also seriously considering deploying WiMAX to extend its reach to 90 percent of the market. It has successfully completed trials expects to launch using wholesale services depending on resolution of spectrum issues in 2007. It also plans to deploy WiMAX into areas without broadband coverage today in 2008 and 2009.

While FastWeb is putting strong emphasis on its new enterprise offerings, it remains quite serious about the residential market. It expects 45 percent of its revenue to come from this market in the long term.

Its IPTV strategy is based on offering a profitable as opposed to a market entry service. It is keeping its prices up and formed an alliance with Sky to support this strategy. Its primary competition is a strong free to air digital terrestrial service today.

We expect that FastWeb's strategy will continue to produce strong results. Telecom Italia is clearly a strong competitor that plans to deploy VDSL. As long as FastWeb can get competitive wholesale access to this new VDSL service from Telecom Italia, it should do well.

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