State of Mobile Networks: Italy (November 2016)

As Italy prepares for a major wave of telecom consolidation, OpenSignal is examining the country's mobile data networks one final time before Wind and 3 merge into a single mega-operator. Drawing on 500 million measurements collected this summer and autumn, our second State of Mobile Networks report for Italy compares the 3G and 4G performance of the country's four major operators. We found that a combined Wind and 3 will have some catching up to do.


4G speeds in Italy are impressive

If Italy's networks stand out in one way it's in connection speed. The slowest average 4G speeds OpenSignal measured were 19 Mbps, while the fastest topped 34 Mbps.

LTE availability is a mixed bag

Italy clearly has two classes of operators when it comes to offering a consistent LTE signal. In our tests, two operators, Vodafone and TIM, were able to provide a 4G connection more than 65% of the time, while the other two, 3 Italia and Wind had availability scores lower than 40%.

Vodafone scores big in all performance categories

Vodafone led in nearly all of our metrics, winning all of OpenSignal's speed and availability awards. 3G latency was the only category that Vodafone didn't win outright, drawing with TIM for the prize.

Turin leads in 4G performance among major cities

In an analysis of Italy's four largest cities, we found Turin had the edge on Rome, Naples and Milan in both LTE speed and availability. Though all of the operators improved on their national scores in metro areas, Vodafone and TIM stood apart.

Opensignal Awards Table

Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Latency: 4G Latency: 3G Availability: 4G





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Performance by Metric

Download Speed: 4G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by Opensignal users.

Download Speed: 3G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by Opensignal users.

Download Speed: Overall

This metric shows the average download speed experienced by Opensignal users across all of an operator's 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE availability tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend more time connected to slower 3G networks.

Latency: 4G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on LTE connections as measured by Opensignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Latency: 3G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on 3G connections as measured by Opensignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Availability: 4G

This metric shows the proportion of time Opensignal users have an LTE connection available to them on each operator’s network. It's a measure of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.

Regional Performance

This chart shows the regional winners in each category Opensignal measures. Click on the icons to see a more detailed graph showing each operator’s metrics in a particular region.

Legend: 3 ITA TIM Vodafone Wind
RegionDownload Speed: 4GAvailability: 4G

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Italy's mobile sector is about to undergo a major transformation. European antitrust authorities have given Wind and 3 Italia permission to merge, creating a single mobile provider bigger than both Telecom Italia Mobile and Vodafone. But instead of contracting the Italian mobile market will maintain its four-operator edge. Buying up assets from Wind and 3, French upstart Iliad will set up shop in the country after changing France's competitive landscape with its ultra-low-cost service provider Free Mobile.

Before all of those changes go into effect next year, OpenSignal has taken one last look at the mobile networking status quo in Italy to see how the current four mobile operators line up in 3G and 4G performance. What we found was a country that is clearly accustomed to seeing fast 4G speeds from all of its service providers. But when it comes to network availability there is a definite divide between the bigger and smaller operators in their ability to deliver a 4G signal consistently. In particular, Vodafone set itself apart in our analysis, scoring highest in five of the six categories we measured.

Drawing on 500 million measurements collected by more than 44,000 OpenSignal smartphone users between July and September, our State of Mobile Networks report for Italy compares the 3G and 4G performance of TIM, Vodafone, Wind and 3. Since publishing our last Italy report in May, OpenSignal made some adjustments to both the way we collect data from our smartphone apps and the methodology we use to parse that data. The update allows us to make more measurements, examine new types of network metrics and hone the precision of the measurements we've always collected, helping us isolate the typical consumer mobile experience more effectively (for more details, see our recent blog post). The changes haven't affected our overall rankings of networks in Italy or around the world, but for sake of analytical rigor we aren't making any direct comparisons between results collected from the two different methodologies.

This report also examines the regional performance of all four operators in the country's four largest cities: Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin. Before we dive into that city data, though, let's see how the operators measured up countrywide.

Vodafone leads the way

On a national level, Vodafone dominated our awards table and particularly excelled in providing speedy mobile data connections. We tested the fastest 4G download speeds (34.3 Mbps) and the fastest 3G download speeds (6.8 Mbps) on Vodafone's networks. Those results, along with its high LTE availability, led to Vodafone handily winning our overall speed metric, which calculates the typical download speed consumers experience over an operator's combined 3G and 4G networks. Vodafone delivered an overall average connection speed of 21.3 Mbps, according to our measurements, 7 Mbps faster than its closest rival.

Though Vodafone was the standout in our speed metrics, the other operators were by no means slow. The lowest average 4G speed we measured was 18.9 Mbps on Wind's LTE network, while both TIM and 3 pushed past the 20 Mbps barrier in our tests. In addition, our users also were able to connect to all three operators' 3G networks at speeds exceeding 5 Mbps. In most countries, those 4G speeds in particular would be considered quite good, but in Italy's case, Vodafone has managed to set a higher bar.

In terms of 4G availability, Vodafone again took the prize for providing the most consistently available 4G signal in our tests, but it faced stiffer competition in this category from TIM. Rather than measure geographic coverage, our availability metric tracks the proportion of time users can connect to a particular network. In Vodafone's case, our users were able to see a Vodafone LTE signal 71.6% of the time and a TIM LTE signal 68.1% of the time.

Both Vodafone and TIM were far ahead of 3 and Vodafone, neither of which provided our testers with an LTE connection more than 40% of the time. In fact, Italy's operators appear to have split themselves into two distinct camps when it comes to making LTE connections accessible. While Vodafone and TIM are keeping pace with most of Europe in LTE availability, Wind and 3's availability scores rank lower than operators in many countries in the early stages of their LTE rollouts, according to our tests.

Those low availability scores drove down both operators' overall speed measurements despite both rating highly in our 4G speed tests. Our analysis found 3 and Wind's overall download speeds — 10.6 Mbps and 9 Mbps respectively — to be half that of the LTE speeds we measured on their networks. Since our users were able to connect to the two operators' LTE networks less than 40% of the time, our testers more often than not were faced with slower 3G links.

The final metric we looked at was latency, which measures the response time of the network. Networks with lower latency react faster when a user clicks on a link or uses a real-time communications app. While Vodafone won our 4G latency award, it drew with TIM for best 3G latency in our tests.

A 4G boost in the big metro areas

OpenSignal took a deeper dive into 4G performance in Italy's four largest cities, and we found that all of the operators generally scored higher in network availability and speed in big urban areas than nationally — in some instances much higher.

Vodafone may have bested its competitors in our nationwide 4G availability metric, but it wasn't quite as dominant on the regional level. In Turin, TIM won our 4G availability award outright as our testers were able to find a TIM 4G connection an impressive 85.5% of the time. In Milan, Naples and Rome, TIM and Vodafone were practically deadlocked, tying for best 4G availability in our analysis in all three cases. In all four cities, both operators were able to provide a 4G connection more than 70% of the time.

Though Wind and 3 still brought up the rear in our city 4G availability tests, they both improved significantly on their national scores. In Milan and Naples, we were able to detect a 4G signal from both operators more than 40% of the time, and in Rome and Turin, we saw 4G signals from the two providers well over 50% of the time.

When we looked at 4G speed in the four cities, Turin clearly stood out. Three of the four operators saw sizable bumps in their national speed measurements in the Piedmont capital, though none more than Vodafone, which averaged 4G download speeds at an astonishingly high 50.6 Mbps in our tests. In addition, we measured average speeds of 41.2 Mbps on TIM's LTE network in Turin, which was close to doubling its national 4G speed rating.

We recorded notable speed boosts in Milan as well, while in Rome 4G speed generally matched national performance. Naples was the only city where we measured speeds lower than the nationwide trend. Vodafone also managed to extend its national 4G speed dominance on the regional level. We measured the fastest LTE speeds on Vodafone's networks in Milan and Rome as well as Turin. Naples was the only city of the four where other operators contested its speed crown. There we recorded a three-way draw between Vodafone, TIM and 3.

Vodafone nearly swept our awards in Italy, and our results show both it and TIM have some big performance advantages over 3 and Wind. By the time our next State of Mobile Networks report comes out though, we'll be looking at a very different mobile landscape. On Jan. 1, the combined Wind and 3 will launch service as Italy's new largest operator in terms of subscribers, and at some point next year we'll get a first glimpse of Iliad's new low-cost Italian operator. Whether either of these two operators will present an immediate threat to Vodafone or TIM in network performance remains to be seen.

Our Methodology

Opensignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. We collect 3 billion individual measurements every day from tens of millions of smartphones worldwide.

Our measurements are collected at all hours of the day, every day of the year, under conditions of normal usage, including inside buildings and outdoors, in cities and the countryside, and everywhere in between. By analyzing on-device measurements recorded in the places where subscribers actually live, work and travel, we report on mobile network service the way users truly experience it.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the changing experience of consumers on mobile networks and, therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data, see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 502,434,886 datapoints were collected from 44,810 users during the period: 2016-07-01 - 2016-09-30.

For every metric we've calculated statistical confidence intervals and plotted them on all of the graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric, our measured results are too close to declare a winner in a particular category. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

Opensignal Limited retains ownership of this report including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports produced by Opensignal Limited may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent.