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The unknown battle over PPC's entry into telecommunications

The plan of PPC president and CEO, George Stassis, for expansion into telecommunications is causing tension, not only within the government, but also in the telecommunications market.

An underground controversy that has been going on for many months in the government erupted in the last few days due to the non-submission of a bid by PPC in the tender for the development of high-speed broadband networks (UltraFast BroadBand UFBB) on September 17.

The plan of PPC president and CEO, George Stassis, for expansion into telecommunications with the development of a nationwide network that will offer wholesale Internet access services is causing tension, not only within the government, but also in the telecommunications market.

According to sources, PPC took the issue to the Prime Minister’s office complaining that an extension to the tender should have been given in order for PPC to be able to express interest. In the end, only OTE and the Grid Telecom - TERNA Energy consortium appeared in the tender. Those who believe that PPC had sufficient time to prepare claim that a few months ago, in the first stage of the tender for the UFBB, there was an extension again in order for PPC to catch up. They also believe that the noise that reached the prime minister's office was done so in order for the UFBB tender to be cancelled so that PPC would be better prepared for the next one.

PPC management claims that its plan for the development of a nationwide fiber optic network will enhance competition. Stassis told analysts while presenting first half earnings last week that PPC has "a unique competitive advantage and the ability to proceed with the development of the fiber optic network with speed and low cost based on the existing infrastructure," referring to the HEDNO network. The total investment, according to the same presentation, will reach 680 million euros by 2026, starting in 2022.

Others believe that continuous announcements by PPC are putting obstacles in the tender process. Some argue that there is interest from a foreign group that wants to develop a fiber optic network in Greece, but "see no room after the announcements of PPC." However, specific names of international groups interested in the Greek fiber optic market have not been heard.

From Tellas to new networks

Stassis' interest in telecommunications is not, however, by chance. From 2001 to 2006 he worked at Tellas, as a member of the management team and as Executive Director of Strategic Projects and Procurement. Along with Tellas, PPC first attempted to enter telecommunications but was not successful. It was finally sold to today's Wind Hellas. Stassis also worked for years in the Romanian market, as head of the Italian energy group ENEL. Romania has one of the cheapest and fastest internet access services in the world through the network created on the electricity poles.

ENEL had set up Open Fiber in Italy, the largest fiber optic network management company to provide wholesale services to other telecommunications groups. A few weeks ago, there was an agreement for the Australian Macquarie (which acquired 49% of HEDNO) to buy 40% of Open Fiber for 2.12 billion euros. The Open Fiber network already reaches 12 million households in Italy with a goal of reaching 19 million. Mario Draghi's government seems to have put on the ice a plan to merge Open Fiber with FiberCop. Τhe company to which the secondary network (the network from the cabin to the house) of the former Telecom Italia monopoly was transferred. The merger would create a single company that would manage the fiber optic infrastructure in Italy in order to develop broadband services faster.

The plan of the previous Italian government also supported the arguments of government officials in Greece who stressed that there should be a unified infrastructure for access to fiber optic networks in our country as well. This way there will be no waste of resources and it will be possible to speed up the transition to speed networks up to 1 Gbps. PPC's effort looks to overturn this logic. The apparent change of course by the Draghi government, which may be temporary as it is under severe pressure from Telecom Italia, supports Stassi's plans for two or more access networks.

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