Mobile networks' speeds faster in the Alps than in southern provinces of Italy

Italy is internationally famous for its historical cities, generous sunshine and extensive seaside, but the country also holds two of the longest mountain ranges in Europe — the Alps and the Apennines. With many mountainous municipalities, finding a decent mobile signal is not necessarily a given. 

For this insight, Opensignal has taken into consideration ISTAT’s ecological classification of the Italian territory to understand how geography, geology and the climate might affect Italian smartphone users’ mobile network experience.

We found that our users spent less time connected to a 4G network (4G Availability) in the two ecological provinces that encompass the mountain ranges of the Alps and Apennines. Moreover, our users in the northern ecological regions — Alps included — on average experienced faster download and upload speeds compared to those in the southern provinces.

Opensignal used the Italian National Institute of Statistics’ (ISTAT) definition of ecological provinces, which categorizes the Italian territory into seven provinces. These definitions aim to integrate the Italian municipalities’ socio-economic features, taking into account geographical, geological, climatic and biodiversity characteristics that contribute to the development of the territory.

According to ISTAT, on January 1, 2019 there were 7,926 municipalities in Italy, with 4,080 of them being mountainous municipalities covering 61.9% of the country’s territory. The vast majority of the mountainous municipalities are included in Provincia Alpina and Provincia Appenninica, although many can be found across all ecological provinces.


Users spend less time connected to 4G networks in the mountain areas

We observed the highest 4G Availability of 92.2% and 92.1% in Provincia Padana and Provincia Adriatica, respectively. Those two provinces present the lowest proportion of their territory covered by mountainous municipalities, suggesting that an important factor which helps explain 4G Availability is that mobile signals propagate more easily across plains and seaside locations than in mountainous areas. 

Our users also experienced average 4G Availability higher than 90% in Provincia Ligure, Provincia Illirica and Provincia Tirrenica, which all spread across the Italian coastline.

The two remaining ecological provinces, Provincia Alpina and Provincia Appenninica — which are mostly composed of mountainous municipalities — featured the lowest 4G Availability of 88.1% and 86.6%, respectively.


Mobile networks’ speeds are faster in the northern provinces

Our smartphone users on average experienced faster download and upload speeds in the four northern ecological provinces where we observed average Download Speed Experience and Upload Speed Experience of at least 25 Mbps and 8 Mbps, respectively, across all four zones. On the other hand, our users in Provincia Adriatica, Provincia Tirrenica and Provincia Appenninica on average saw lower download and upload speeds; the average Download Speed Experience we observed in the three provinces were 22.3 Mbps, 21.8 Mbps and 21.6 Mbps, respectively, while the average Upload Speed Experience ranged between 6.7 Mbps in Provincia Appenninica and 7.2 Mbps in Provincia Adriatica.


Mobile networks’ speeds in the Alps are faster than in most of Italy

We observed an interesting difference in the mobile experience scores we measured in the two ecological provinces which reflect the mountain ranges of the Alps and Apennines — Provincia Alpina and Provincia Appenninica. While they both featured a lower 4G Availability score compared to all the other provinces, which is likely due to their mountainous landscape, our users in the Alps not only enjoyed considerably better mobile network speeds than their counterparts in the Apennines, but even faster speeds than those in the two southern Mediterranean provinces — Provincia Tirrenica and Provincia Adriatica.

The difference in experience can likely be explained by the large role of tourism in the Alps, as well as by the relatively small population of the Alpine municipalities. On one hand, mobile operators likely hold an interest in focusing their network upgrades in important tourist areas; on the other hand, the lower population likely means that users experience a lower degree of mobile congestion — which would have a negative impact on their mobile network experience — compared to the other provinces.