MILAN (Reuters) - Italian mobile phone operator Wind is to spend $1.3 billion on building a fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband network to step up competition to rivals Telecom Italia <TLIT.MI> and Vodafone <VOD.L>.
The investment will use technology from Italy's Sirti and Huawei Technologies <HWT.UL>, the firms said in a statement on Friday, giving a boost to the Chinese telecoms equipment maker as it battles for work on 4G networks across Europe.
"This new considerable investment follows last year's purchase of the LTE (Long Term Evolution) frequencies," Wind Chief Executive Maximo Ibarra said, referring to frequencies for delivering faster communications.
The deal will last five years, a Huawei spokesperson added.
Wind, which is owned by VimpelCom <VIP.N>, is the third-largest mobile telecoms operator in Italy, where it also competes with Hutchison Whampoa's <0013.HK> 3 Italia.
Huawei is already a supplier of the three other Italian mobile phone companies and has won 4G contracts with EE in Britain and Vodafone in Germany. However, it continues to be shut out of the U.S. market over security concerns.
Ericsson <ERICb.ST> remains a leader in terms of global telecoms equipment, with Nokia Siemens Networks <NOKI.UL> and Huawei jostling for a second place while Alcatel-Lucent <ALUAL.UL>, which has a focus on the United States, is losing ground because of its traditional weakness in Europe.
($1 = 0.7618 euros)
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Leila Abboud; Editing by Mark Potter)
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