MILAN Italian broadband operator Fastweb and Chinese telecoms equipment firm Huawei Technologies Ltd HWT.UL signed a deal to jointly develop ultra-fast internet technologies, they said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Fastweb, a unit of Swisscom SCMN.VX, has earmarked 2 billion euros of investments in innovation and development in four years and aims to bring its broadband network to 20 percent of Italian homes by 2014.
The five-year deal will allow Fastweb to offer connection speeds beyond 100 megabit per second and, in a second phase, to boost that speed by up to 10 times, using the same infrastructure, the statement said.
In a separate statement, the Italian government said the deal between Fastweb and Huawei is worth $557 million.
Italy has long been an Internet laggard and the government is seeking ways to foster investment in fibre optic networks.
Only half the population uses the Internet at least once a week and Italian firms generate only 5.4 percent of sales online compared with 13.9 percent elsewhere in Europe.
In September, Fastweb and Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) agreed to jointly invest in the rollout of a fiber optic network.
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by David Holmes)