Italy's powerful 4G networks are only hindered by their lack of availability, but we're seeing signs of improvement as the country's biggest operators expand their LTE footprints. Drawing on 60 million measurements taken in the first quarter of 2016, OpenSignal gauged the 3G and 4G speeds and availability offered by Italy's four nationwide operators: TIM, Vodafone, Wind and 3.
While Italian operators are still building out their 4G footprints, Vodafone has managed to stand out in LTE availability. In the first three months of 2016, Vodafone's 4G subscribers were able to connect to its LTE network 75% of the time. TIM came in second with an availability metric of 68%.
When Italian subscribers were able to find 4G signals they certainly didn't lack for high-performance connections. Three of Italy's four operators maintained average LTE download speeds greater than 17 Mbps, much faster than the global 4G average. There was no outright winner in 4G speed in Italy, however, with Vodafone and 3 sharing OpenSignal's award for fastest network.
Even when 4G customers left LTE coverage, they had remarkably quick 3G networks to fall back on. Vodafone's HSPA network won the award for fastest 3G in this report, averaging download speeds of 6 Mbps. But all four of Italy's national providers were well above the global 3G average.
While Vodafone and TIM are making strides in improving national 4G availability, Italy's overall LTE availability is still poor compared to many of its global peers. We measured LTE availability for both Wind and 3 at less than 50%, bringing Italy's national availability level to just 58%.
|Download Speed: 4G||Download Speed: 3G||Download Speed: Overall||Latency: 4G||Latency: 3G||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.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
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.
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.
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.
First, let's take a look at speed. In OpenSignal's State of LTE report in February, we measured average global 4G download speeds at 13.5 Mbps. Three of Italy's four providers had no trouble beating that benchmark handily. In the first quarter, we tracked 3 Italia's 4G download average at 19.6 Mbps, Vodafone's at 18.7 Mbps and Telecom Italia Mobile's at 17.5 Mbps. There was no outright winner for the 4G speed crown, though, since 3 and Vodafone were close enough in our measurements to be statistically tied for first place.
LTE wasn't the only impressive network technology we saw in Italy. Before LTE came online in 2012, Italian operators invested heavily in HSPA+ technologies. Consequently, Italy's 3G networks are among the fastest in the world. Vodafone won OpenSignal's award for fastest 3G network with download speeds of 6 Mbps, nearly double the global 3G average. Vodafone's superior 3G speeds, coupled with its high-performing LTE network, led it to win our overall speed award, which measures the average speed a user experiences across all of an operator's networks.
Those powerful 3G networks are likely in high demand because — as is the case with many western European countries — Italy is behind the global curve when it comes to 4G availability. Our availability metric (*) tracks the proportion of time OpenSignal users spend connected to a particular network. In Italy's case, 4G subscribers were only able to find their operators' LTE signals 58% of the time during our three month test period. That doesn't put Italy at the bottom of the list of countries ranked by LTE availability, but it's definitely in the lower half.
There were, however, some availability standouts in our data. We measured availability on Vodafone's 4G network at 75%, which not only puts it well ahead of its Italian peers but in the top tier of global operators. TIM also had an impressive availability figure of 68%. Wind and 3's low availability numbers, however, drag down Italy's overall average. Both operators had availability scores less than 50%.
The final metric we tracked was latency, which is essentially the response time of a network. Lower latency means data traverses the network much more quickly, creating less lag time between, say, clicking on a link and a web page loading. TIM won the award for lowest 4G latency at 62 milliseconds, while Vodafone won the latency award on its 3G networks with a measurement of 87ms.
Italy's already fast networks are likely to get faster as operators like Vodafone and TIM continue to upgrade their networks. Both operators are already running LTE in multiple frequency bands and have started using LTE-Advanced techniques to boost speeds.
Not just technology could impact Italy's 4G performance. As it is the case throughout Europe, Italian operators are consolidating. The two smallest operators 3 and Wind are seeking regulatory approval to merge, which would create a nationwide operator bigger than Vodafone or TIM in total customers. The two would also combine their spectrum holdings and LTE networks, boosting their 4G capacity and potentially expanding their coverage footprints. By the time we take our next look at Italy, we may find it overcoming its 4G availability limitations.
(*) Editor’s note: When this report was originally published OpenSignal used the term time coverage for what is now our availability metric. We changed the name to avoid confusion of this metric with geographic and population coverage metrics, and we have reflected that change in our old reports. The new terminology, however, does not reflect a new methodology. Time coverage and availability represent the same measurement: the proportion of time OpenSignal users can connect to a particular network.
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