Changing competitive landscape in Italy – a look at 5G networks & operator strategies

Italy remains a highly dynamic market, especially on 5G. Operators are improving users’ experience and the country’s 5G networks are improving at a faster rate than in comparable European markets. Opensignal data from our users in Italy further shows that Iliad and WindTre have taken a confident lead in 5G Availability, making additional leaps ahead in recent quarters. Our Vodafone and TIM users, meanwhile, are seeing 5G speeds that are multiple times faster than the rest of the market. Vodafone 5G users have seen the greatest speed improvement in recent quarters – substantially closing the distance with TIM users who have so far enjoyed faster 5G Download Speed. 

In this analysis, we put Italy's 5G networks into context through comparison with other major European markets. Additionally, we look at recent changes in the Italian mobile experience across operators, to understand the direction the Italian operators are pursuing with improving connectivity for users. 

Opensignal expects these trends to influence the competitive landscape in Italy – given that the negative level of user experience on 5G networks was found to be prevalent among customers who ended up switching mobile operators, as has been explored in our recent insight looking at Italy.

Italy lags behind on 5G download speeds, but is catching up with its European peers

While Italy is behind most other European markets in average 5G download speeds, Italy’s speeds are increasing at a substantially faster rate than in other European markets. Looking at 5G Download Speed measured by our users over a 90-day period in the last quarter of 2022 across Europe, Italy stands towards the bottom of the list when compared with 12 other major European countries, where 5G has also been made commercially available at scale. The 5G Download Speeds across the other European markets were 173.8Mbps on average – 62% faster than the Italian market’s speed of 107.3Mbps. However, the average for the other markets has risen by only 3.9% year-on-year (YoY), from 167.4Mbps in Q4 2021, while Italy’s 5G Download Speed score increased by an impressive 13.4% over the same period from 94.6Mbps.

We see a similar story when looking at average 4G download speeds, with Italy taking roughly the same position towards the bottom of the list of comparable European markets. Italy’s 4G Download Speed was 31Mbps, compared with other European markets’ speeds being 48.5% faster with 46.1Mbps 4G Download Speed. Furthermore, other major European markets saw a higher 4G to 5G uplift in download speed, with 5G being four times faster on average, compared to Italy’s 3.5 times – meaning other European markets saw a greater benefit brought to consumers following the rollout of the latest generation network.


The WindTre merger and the evolution of 5G experience are changing the Opensignal award winners

Opensignal has been regularly reporting on the state of mobile network experience in Italy, giving out operator awards for experience recorded by our users, in twice-yearly country reports published since 2016. The market has gone through a number of significant changes during those years, but among the most significant ones was the entry of Iliad in May 2018, and the the merger of Wind and 3 Italy, which formed a single brand, WindTre, in March 2020.

Since the merger, WindTre has become the second most awarded network in Italy, winning 21 awards out of 67 available in the three years since its inception. This is behind the 37 awards won by Vodafone, but above the 19 won by TIM and five won by Iliad during the same period. In the four years preceding the launch of the single brand, Wind and 3 Italy won virtually no awards in the market (having taken only two awards out of the 49 available during that time). Iliad won its first award only in the fourth year after its launch.

Looking at the progression of Download Speed Experience in Italy over the past three years, Vodafone stands out in the extent to which its users’ speeds have improved. From Q4 2020 to Q4 2021, the average download speed across all of our users on Vodafone’s network went up 37.5% from 25Mbps to 34.4Mbps — the most improvement seen in the last three years across Italy’s operators. Vodafone has decisively dominated the Download Speed Experience category since Q2 2021, winning three consecutive Opensignal awards for the metric.

Our TIM users saw by far the fastest 5G Download Speed ever in Italy. However, Vodafone saw its users’ experience improve at the fastest pace – the average 5G download speeds from users on Vodafone rose by 48.9% over Q2 2021 to Q3 2022, to 173.1Mbps. As a result, Vodafone managed to close the distance with TIM, from 2.7x to 1.6x difference in users’ speeds over those five quarters.

The story is reversed for 5G Availability, where it is WindTre and Iliad that are leading in the market. The two operators are working on accelerating 5G rollout through RAN sharing agreements, with a joint venture finalized in January 2023. Our 5G users on WindTre’s and Iliad’s networks were connected to 5G signal for 29.4% and 15.1% of the time in Q3 2022. The two operators have dramatically improved 5G Availability for users in Italy in late 2022 – Iliad’s score rose by 3.2 times in Q3 2022 compared to the previous quarter, while WindTre’s rose by 1.2 times.

Opensignal will continue to regularly publish mobile network experience reports on Italy, where we will share the updated outlook using the newest set of data collected by our users, continuing from the last available public report:  Italy Mobile Network Experience Report November 2022. The next report will be published in May 2023.