State of Mobile Networks: Italy (May 2017)

Italy just underwent a major wave of telecom consolidation. 3 and Wind are now Wind Tre, an operator that aims to rewrite the competitive landscape of the Italian peninsula. But while Wind Tre may be a joint venture on paper, their networks are still operationally distinct. And while 3 and Wind sort out the details of their integration, Vodafone and TIM have been steadily improving their own 4G performance. Drawing on more than 500 million datapoints, OpenSignal took one final look at the mobile data experience on Italy's four nationwide mobile services before they're reduced to three.


4G availability jumps across the board

We were able to find an LTE signal on Vodafone and TIM 78% and 73% of the time respectively, which represents sizable jumps in both operators' 4G availability scores since our last Italy report. 3 and Wind also saw big gains in LTE availability, but the two recently merged operators still lag considerably behind their competitors.

Vodafone continues to dominate our speed rankings

As was the case in our last report, Vodafone stood apart from its rivals in all of our national speed rankings. Our 4G speed tests on Vodafone were particularly impressive. Its average download connection was nearly 40 Mbps in our measurements.

Wind Tre is still in a holding pattern

Though Wind and 3 completed the business side of their merger in January, they're still operating their networks separately for the time being. Consequently we didn't see much movement from either in our metrics.

TIM, Vodafone go head to head in Italy's biggest cities

While Vodafone ran away with most of OpenSignal's national awards, it faced a much closer contest with TIM in our regional analysis of Milan, Naples, Rome and Turin. TIM tied with Vodafone in 4G availability in all four cities, and the two split our speed and availability awards.

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: 4GLatency: 4GAvailability: 4G

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Since our last State of Mobile Networks: Italy report, the Italian market has shrunk from four operators to three. Wind and 3 have merged to form a joint venture called Wind Tre, the largest provider in Italy in terms of total subscribers. While Wind Tre's parents Vimpelcom and CK Hutchison have completed all of the regulatory and financial steps to the merger, they're still in the process of integrating both networks. Meanwhile Vodafone Italia and Telecom Italia Mobile aren't idly waiting around for Wind Tre to gain the upper hand. We recorded significant improvements in their mobile data metrics in the last six months.

For our third look at the Italian peninsula, OpenSignal drew on over 500 million measurements collected by 40,758 OpenSignal smartphone users in the first quarter of 2017. We compared the mobile experience on all four major operators' 3G and 4G networks, treating Wind and 3 as separate services until their network integration is complete. We also revisited our 4G analysis of Italy's four largest metropolitan areas: Milan, Naples, Rome and Turin. First, though, let's take a look at our national results.

Vodafone's 4G juggernaut

Vodafone again took the majority of OpenSignal's awards, winning four of the six categories outright while drawing with TIM for a fifth. The most impressive metric from Vodafone, though, was its LTE speed score. In our tests it averaged 4G download connections a hair shy of 40 Mbps, a benchmark only a few other operators globally have reached. If its present momentum keeps up, we may well see that score improve in our next report. Between this and our last report, we measured an increase of more than 5 Mbps in LTE speed.

Though the other operators weren't able to match Vodafone in our LTE speed tests, they were by no means slow. Both TIM and 3 averaged 4G downloads greater than 24 Mbps in our measurements. Wind, however, landed at the bottom of our rankings with an average LTE speed of 16.8 Mbps. In our city analysis, Vodafone also dominated the 4G speed category, though TIM contested the top ranking in Turin. In one city, Naples, we tested average 4G speeds on Vodafone at 51.9 Mbps.

In our 3G speed results, the operators were much more closely bunched. While Vodafone ranked highest with an average 3G download speed of 7.3 Mbps, we measured HSPA speeds on all four operators greater than 5.5 Mbps. Given Vodafone's high ranks in both 3G and 4G speed, it easily took our overall speed award with an average connection of 27.7 Mbps.

Italy's 4G reach grows

Since our last Italy report in November, all four operators made strides in 4G availability. Rather than measure geographic coverage, our availability metric tracks the proportion of time OpenSignal users can connect to a particular network. Our testers were able to link up with the Vodafone LTE network 78.2% of the time and with TIM's LTE network 73% of the time, which represents an improvement of 5 percentage points to both operators' scores in just six months' time.

We measured a similar 5% increase over the same period in Wind's 4G availability, but the biggest improvement we recorded was in 3's LTE reach. 3's LTE availability jumped 10 percentage points. But Wind and 3 had pretty poor availability to begin with so their boosted scores did little to close the gap with TIM and Vodafone. Our users were able to find an LTE signal on their networks less than 50% of the time.

Vodafone won our national 4G availability award, but in the big cities it faced much stiffer competition. In all four metro areas we examined, TIM and Vodafone were tied for first place, and in several cases both operators were able to supply our users with a 4G signal 80% of the time in Italy's urban areas.

The last metric we examined was latency, which is effectively a measure of a network's reaction time. Data makes a round trip journey more quickly through a lower latency network, which is particularly important for real-time communications apps like VoIP and video chat. TIM performed best in our latency measurements, winning our 4G latency award outright and drawing with Vodafone for our 3G award. TIM also came out on top in 4G latency in our city analysis, winning 4G latency outright in Naples and Rome and drawing with Vodafone in Milan and Turin.

Viewed through the lens of mobile data experience, Vodafone and TIM have set themselves apart from Wind and 3 in every metric we cover. But that could all change quite quickly. Wind Tre won't just merge their customer bases to create the largest operator in Italy. They will combine network assets and spectrum holdings, which could have a substantial impact on their results. Combined spectrum not only means more capacity, but also new possibilities for LTE-Advanced, boosting speeds. Merging network footprints means more towers and greater coverage, which in turn boosts availability. The question is, however, if even a combined 3 and Wind can catch up to Vodafone and TIM given how far they've progressed. Our next few Italy reports will reveal the answer.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated the measurement and test-device sample sizes in our analysis. Those numbers have been corrected.

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, 524,869,032 datapoints were collected from 40,758 users during the period: 2017-01-01 - 2017-03-31.

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.

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