State of Mobile Networks: Italy (May 2018)

It's a time of great uncertainty for Italy's mobile operators. OpenSignal is seeing signs of improvement in LTE availability in the country in our measurements, but 4G download speeds have somewhat stalled. Coupled with this, the Italian market faces serious disruption this year with the merger of two operators and the debut of a new entrant, Iliad's Free. This report analyzes results from more than 1.34 billion measurements collected in Italy in the 90 days ending March 31, 2018 to gauge the 3G and 4G performance of its four nationwide operators.


Italy's 4G networks mature as nearly all operators pass 65% availability

LTE reach is improving in Italy, with three out of the four operators passing the 65% milestone in our 4G availability metric. Vodafone continues to lead the pack with our testers able to access its network nearly 84% of the time. However, Wind showed the greatest increase, as its 4G availability result jumped 16 percentage points to 67% in the last six months.

Vodafone continues to lead as 4G speed growth stutters

Vodafone won our 4G speed award, with impressive average LTE download speeds of 33.9 Mbps, up slightly from 32.3 Mbps in our tests six months previous. While we recorded an improvement in Wind's speeds as well, 4G speeds for Italy's other two operators have generally stayed level.

Vodafone's 4G availability dominance challenged in 7 of Italy's cities

In our analysis of 10 of Italy's largest cities, Vodafone continued to dominate our 4G speed metric, winning or drawing in all 10 markets, and passing the 50 Mbps milestone in Bologna and Palermo. In terms of 4G availability, the field was much closer, with Vodafone winning in just three cities and drawing in the other seven.

TIM dominates in 3G speeds and latency

TIM came top in our 3G download metric, after drawing with Vodafone in our last report. The U.K.-based operator's 3G speed stayed virtually static, allowing 3 Italia to leapfrog it into second place in our measurements. Former incumbent TIM also led in both our 3G and 4G latency metrics, after drawing with Vodafone in the 3G category six months ago.

Opensignal Awards Table

Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Upload Speed: 4G 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.

Upload Speed: 4G

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

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: Vodafone Wind 3 ITA TIM
Region Download Speed: 4G Latency: 4G Availability: 4G

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The Italian mobile market is set for big changes over the next year. Wind and 3 Italia completed their merger at the end of 2016, and have begun to combine their networks in selected regions. We may well be seeing the first signs of that integration in our metrics, but the combined company is still maintaining separate consumer services under the Wind and Tre brands, so we will continue to treat the two as separate operators in this report.

The merger of Wind and 3 Italia will see the number of Italian mobile players drop from four to three, so you might expect to see a drop in competition in the market. But this is unlikely due to the impending debut of French player Iliad. The French operator intends to launch services by the summer and plans to invest over one billion euros in Italy. Iliad's Free has severely disrupted the French mobile market with its low-cost, zero-contract plans, and Italy is braced for a similar spike in competition and an ensuing price war.

In our fifth report for Italy, we collected over a billion measurements from 120,106 smart device users in the first three months of 2018, analysing that data to compare the 3G and 4G services of Italy's four major operators. This report also contains our most comprehensive regional analysis to date, examining 10 of the largest cities in Italy. In addition, we also look at 4G upload speed in Italy for the first time. For more on our metrics and methodology, please read our recent blog post.

Vodafone leading the way in the 4G race

Vodafone won our award for 4G availability, with our testers finding an LTE connection 83.7% of the time on the U.K.-based operator's network. Vodafone's 4G availability grew nearly 4 percentage points from 79.9% since our last report. Our results show TIM in second place with 77.6% 4G availability, followed by Wind on 67% and 3 Italia with 58.4%. Wind saw the most impressive increase in our 4G availability metric, jumping over 16 percentage points from 51% six months ago, and leapfrogging 3 Italia into third place. Wind and 3 Italia have begun to combine their networks in selected regions in recent months as part of their merger, moving cell capacity and infrastructure across networks. We may well be seeing the impact of that integration in our Wind results, but not in 3's, as Wind Tre could be assigning 3 Italia cell sites and capacity to the Wind network.

Vodafone also topped our 4G speed table, registering average LTE download speeds of 33.9 Mbps, a modest increase from its score of 32.3 Mbps six months previous. Growth in 4G speeds in Italy seems to be somewhat faltering, however, as both TIM and 3 Italia saw their average speeds in our measurements stay virtually stagnant at 28.7 Mbps and 22.2 Mbps respectively. Fourth-placed Wind grew its own 4G speed by some 2 Mbps in our tests but remains well behind the pack at 15.7 Mbps (again a possible result of Wind Tre's integration efforts). Italy's operators have launched larger data bundles and unlimited offers over the past year in anticipation of the entry of Iliad's Free, stimulating consumer data use. But such a spike in data use could contribute to network congestion, stalling 4G download speed growth.

Our award for 4G upload speed in Italy also landed with Vodafone – although the margins between the operators were a lot tighter in this category. Vodafone won with an average tested upstream speed of 10.5 Mbps, while the remaining three were close behind with scores just below 10 Mbps. Upload speeds are generally considerably lower than download speeds as current 4G technology standards are focused on users who wish to consume content. However, as mobile internet trends move towards user-generated content and real-time communications services, upload has become vital.

TIM won our 3G download speed category, with Vodafone falling to third place after the two drew in this metric in our last Italy report. Our testers on TIM's network registered average 3G speeds of 7 Mbps, a significant increase on the 6 Mbps it scored in our last test period. Vodafone's 3G speed held steady, allowing 3 Italia to move into second place with a score of 6.2 Mbps, while Wind once again came in fourth place with an average speed of 5 Mbps.

TIM's sprint to the lead in the 3G speed race was not enough to see it catch Vodafone on our overall speed metric, which factors in the combined speeds of operators' 3G and 4G networks and the level of access to each technology. Vodafone's superior overall speed score of 27.5 Mbps saw the operator win once again in this category, beating TIM by a margin of nearly 5 Mbps, while the other two Italian operators were some distance behind the top two in our tests.

TIM has won both of our 3G and 4G latency awards, after drawing with Vodafone in the 3G category six months ago. TIM led our 4G latency metric with our testers finding an average response rate of 35 milliseconds, beating Vodafone's score of 38ms. In our 3G latency category, TIM was able to pull ahead of Vodafone, with our metrics showing an average response rate of 56 ms, ahead of Vodafone's 62 ms. 3 Italia and Wind were once again some way behind, registered 3G latency scores of 74ms and 80ms respectively.

Vodafone faces a challenge from TIM in Italy's big cities

As its national results would imply, Vodafone led the 4G speed and availability metrics in our regional analysis of 10 of Italy's largest cities. However, the operator drew with TIM in five cities in our 4G speed measurements, while in the 4G availability metric there were seven draws. Competition is strong between TIM and Vodafone in Italy's metropolitan areas, with both operators achieving 4G availability scores of 80% or more in all but one of the 10 cities we measured.

TIM's dominance of 4G latency at a national level was also reflected in our regional data, which showed the operator came top in nine out of the 10 cities we measured. TIM and Vodafone were way ahead of the other two operators who both had scores of over 50ms.

However, the two leading operators now face a new challenge from a newly-merged Wind Tre and the disruptive new entrant Iliad's Free. If the huge jump in Wind's 4G availability in our measurements is anything to go by, a combined Wind/3 Italia network could be a force to be reckoned with. Whether these new challengers will be able to catch up with the two leaders in our metrics remains to be seen, but our next few reports on the Italian market will certainly make for interesting reading.

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, 1,341,869,903 datapoints were collected from 120,106 users during the period: 2018-01-01 - 2018-03-31.

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.

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.

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