5G in Italy: after a good start, technology is treading water

Alexandre Boero

The operators of the Boot spent a huge amount of money to launch the fifth generation technology, which is struggling to take off. And it is not necessarily the fault of consumers.

In Italy, 5G was much earlier than in France, where we are still at the auction stage, including the second phase (that of the acquisition of the 11 additional 10 MHz blocks from the “core” band 3,4 – 3.8 GHz) will start between September 20 and September 30. However, on the Peninsula side, the technology offered by telecommunications operators is skating frankly.

5G auction brought 6.5 billion euros to the Italian government in 2018

On the other side of the Alps, the enthusiasm for 5G was such that almost two years ago, in October 2018, the auctions had resulted in a sale of frequencies at exceptionally high prices. By the end of the year, the government had ended the auction procedure by pocketing 6.5 billion euros. It is simply three times more than what the French State hopes with Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free, around 2.2 billion euros.

But while the multiplication of sectors and uses that can benefit from 5G (such as connected objects, remote surgery, commerce, robotization of industry or even digitization) held out promising promises, mobile technology from fifth generation idles.

Consumers are not to blame, on the contrary. The latter are now suffering from administrative concerns, which have consequences for Italian operators and the deployment of 5G equipment.

Paperwork delays large-scale deployment of 5G in Italy

In the last two years in Italy, the use of smartphones has literally exploded, even going as far as being used more than the laptop. And the rush to develop the Italian 5G network led companies to bear costs eventually “significantly superior to other countries” as well as a “sharp drop in profitability”in the words of number two Wind Wind, the country’s second largest mobile network operator with around 24 million subscribers.

Another thorn in the side is paperwork. In Italy, the authorizations to install 5G equipment vary according to regions, even municipalities, which can lead to serious disparities on the Peninsula. The administrative aspect therefore greatly delays the deployment of the technology, which is only offered in certain large cities. The market leader, TIM (Telecom Italia), for example, offers 5G in nine Italian cities including Rome, Naples, Turin or Florence, and soon Milan, with the aim of covering the entire population within 5 to 6 years.

For the development of 5G to resume, operators expect the government to maintain the tax benefits. A drop in prices for 5G compatible smartphones is also expected. As for the packages, the prices remain much higher than in some countries.

💰 The price of 5G subscriptions in Italy

  • TIM, the leading Italian telecommunications operator (30.5 million subscribers) offers a basic package to 29.99 euros per month, including 5G up to 2 Gbit / s, data, SMS and unlimited calls.
  • Wind tre (24 million subscribers) also offers its customers a fixed price 29.99 euros per month, with advantages identical to those of its historic competitor.
  • Vodafone Italia (19.2 million subscribers) offers three 5G plans: one to 26.99 euros per month (under certain conditions) with data, SMS and unlimited calls; the other at 29.99 euros per month; and the last at 39.99 euros per month. What essentially differentiates the three plans is the data roaming in the European Union (1 GB, 2 GB and 5 GB) and the number of minutes offered for making calls (200 minutes, 300 minutes and 500 minutes).

False information about the health impact of technology can also harm the deployment of 5G. Iliad, which has 6 million subscribers through its transalpine subsidiary, calls for “deny the fake news around 5G, which risks slowing a deployment that would allow the digital development of the country.” All over Europe, some consider 5G to facilitate dissemination of coronavirus and that it has consequences for the health of users.

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