During his time as a Roman general, Julius Caesar led his legions to victory over the Gallic tribes of France. Skip forward 2,000 years, and the Italian mobile market faces a new invasion from France, in the form of Iliad’s Free.
The new entrant 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.
Coupled with this, it’s a case of Et tu, Brute? as Italy’s leading operators TIM and Vodafone face a fresh challenge from the merger of friends, Romans, and countrymen, Wind and 3 Italia. The two completed their merger to become Wind Tre at the end of 2016, and have begun to combine their networks in selected regions.
However, despite these dark portents gathering over Rome’s seven hills, there are signs Italy’s mobile market is maturing. OpenSignal is seeing signs of improvement in LTE availability in the country in our measurements in our latest State of Mobile Networks: Italy report. Three out of the country’s four operators have passed the 65% milestone in our 4G availability metric. Vodafone led the pack with our testers able to access its network nearly 84% of the time. Meanwhile Wind showed the greatest increase in our measurements, as its 4G availability jumped 16 percentage points to 67% in the last six months.
Vodafone also won our 4G speed award, registering fairly impressive average LTE download speeds of 33.9 Mbps, up from 32.3 Mbps in our test period six months previous. We recorded an improvement in Wind’s 4G speeds as well, but download rates for Italy’s other two operators stayed fairly level, as the growth of 4G speeds in the country has somewhat stalled.
Wind and 3 Italia have begun to transfer cell capacity and infrastructure across their networks as part of their merger, which could well explain the improvement in our metrics for Wind. Wind Tre could be migrating 3 Italia cell sites and capacity to Wind’s network. If the jump we’ve registered in Wind’s 4G availability is anything to go by, the combined Wind Tre network could be a force to be reckoned with.
So the market leaders TIM and Vodafone face a two-pronged threat from the Wind Tre conspirators and the French invasion of Iliad. But our metrics show the top two operators remain some way ahead in the race to 4G dominance, so whether the challengers can catch up with the leaders remains to be seen.