CERNOBBIO, Italy (Reuters) – Italy wants a stronger national telecoms network, Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao said on Saturday, adding this could be achieved by merging Telecom Italia (TIM) and Open Fiber assets as long as competition in the sector is maintained.

“What we’re keen on is a national telecoms infrastructure ensuring great performance and quality”, Colao told reporters on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti business forum.

“If this were to happen by combining parts of Telecom (Italia) with Open Fiber, that’s welcome as long as competition is preserved,” Colao added.

Italian state lender CDP, which controls Open Fiber, signed a preliminary accord with TIM in May aimed at creating a unified wholesale network operator under state control by merging TIM’s fixed network infrastructure with that of Open Fiber.

CDP is expected to submit a non-binding offer for TIM’s network later this month, two people close to the matter told Reuters.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Valentina Za)