- 5G for Italy, 2016, 5G strategy, pushed by TIM, around identified cities and application areas.
- Trial licences and trial cities, mid-2017.
- 700 MHz/3.5 GHz auctions in November 2018, 26 GHz spectrum auctions, October 2018, first in Europe.
- Launch of Vodafone and TIM 5G service in June 2019
The Italian 5G strategy kick-started late in 2016 when the domestic NRA announced the start of a fact-finding survey for the development of mobile and wireless systems towards the 5G and the utilization of the spectrum above 6 GHz.
In March 2017, the Government selected five 5G trial cities, including Milan (Vodafone), Prato (Wind Tre-Open Fiber), L’Aquila (Wind Tre-Open Fiber), Bari and Matera (Telecom Italia-Fastweb-Huawei Technologies), that will use 100 MHz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum. Provisional licences are valid from September 2017 to 2020.
At year-end 2017, the “Bari-Matera plan” involving MNOs, cities, research centers and equipment vendors was unveiled and began. The 60 MEUR over four years (2018-2021) plan gathers 55 partners including seven universities and research centers, public interest communities, vertical leaders, start-ups and telecom players (TIM, Fastweb, Huawei). The plan focuses on ten application areas including media/virtual reality, smart port, smart city, smart agriculture, public safety, industry 4.0, health 5.0, road safety, tourism and culture, and environmental monitoring over 70 use cases.
In May 2018, the NRA announced 5G multi-band spectrum auctions (in the 700 MHz, 3.6-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands). 700 MHz and 26 GHz spectrum auctions ended respectively in September and October 2018. The five 26 lots of 26 GHz spectrum raised 167.3 million EUR. 700 MHz frequencies raised globally 2.04 billion EUR. The 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auction hit over 4 billion EUR.
To ensure widespread improvements in mobile coverage across the Italy, the Ministry of Economic Development, based on the national regulatory authority (AGCOM) rules, has established coverage obligations for the 700 MHz FDD band and 3600-3800 MHz band.
Concerning the 700 MHz FDD band, the coverage obligations will require winning bidders to roll out improved mobile coverage of national population, tourist locations and main national road and rail transport routes.
Concerning the 3600-3800 MHz band, the coverage obligations require 80 MHz winning bidders to roll out improved mobile coverage in a mandatory list of municipalities. Within 90 days from the date of the award, the winning bidders have to submit a list of municipalities to be covered to the Ministry of Economic Development. Then, the winning bidders have 72 months from the date of the award to prove they are ready to provide on demand the 5G service in all municipalities of their mandatory list. The mandatory list has to include at least 10% of all Italian municipalities under 5.000 inhabitants. All Italian municipalities under 5.000 inhabitants out the mandatory lists are signed in a free list. Any subject, which is not an TLC operator, from 120 days from the award can declare to the Ministry its willingness to offer the service in a municipalities of free list, using leasing contract with 3600-3800 MHz winning bidders.
Finally concerning the 3600-3800 MHz band, the coverage obligations require 20 MHz winning bidders to reach the coverage of 5% of the population of each Italian region.
In September-October 2018, the NRA auctioned 60 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum for 2 billion EUR, 200 MHz of 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum for 4 billion EUR and 1,000 MHz of 26 GHz for 167 million EUR.
- Globally 1,275 MHz are offered for sale broken down into 700 MHz frequencies (75 MHz), all the upper part of the 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies (200 MHz divided in two blocks of 80 MHz and two blocks of 20 MHz in 3.6-3.8 GHz) and all the upper part of 26 GHz frequencies (1 GHz divided in five 200 MHz blocks in 26.5-27.5 GHz).
- Telecom Italia, Wind, Tre, Vodafone, Illiad and Fastweb submitted bids for about 2.48 billion EUR, in line with the government’s expectations (2.5 billion EUR). As a new player, Illiad was allowed to bid for a reserve package of up to three blocks in 700 MHz frequencies worth of 676.5 million EUR.
- The process started mid-September and ended on October 2nd, 2018. The whole auction ended after 14 days of intense bidding, far above expectations, reaching 6.55 billion EUR of which 4 billion EUR for the highly-coveted mid-frequencies.
- The 700 MHz auction process ended mid-September 2018. 700 MHz frequencies raised globally 2.04 billion EUR. Telecom Italia announced it had paid 680.2 million EUR for 2×10 MHz. Illiad paid 676.5 million EUR for 2×10 MHz. Vodafone spent 683.2 million EUR for 2×10 MHz. Licenses are valid 15 years, starting in 2022.
- The mi-band auction ended on October 2nd, 2018, 14 days after start and 171 rounds. Telecom Italia and Vodafone won the largest blocks of spectrum (80 MHz each) for approx.1.7 billion EUR each. Respectively they paid 1.694 billion EUR and 1.685 billion EUR. Wind and Iliad paid 483.9 million EUR each for 20 MHz of spectrum each (483.92 million EUR for Wind and 483.9 million EUR for Illiad). Overall, the 3.7 GHz auction hit over 4 billion EUR reaching 4.3 billion EUR. The average price of spectrum closed at 18 cEUR/MHz/PoP/10 years significantly higher than in the UK or in Spain.
- The auction for 26 GHz frequencies have not shown a huge interest by players. The five lots were allocated, raising a total of 167.3 million EUR. Telecom Italia paid its lot 33 million EUR, Illiad received another lot for a little less at 32.9 million EUR, while Fastweb, Wind and Vodafone paid 32.6 million EUR each.
- On 21 February, TIM Italy and Vodafone have agreed on a passive network sharing deal for 5G including all 22,000 antenna sites controlled by the operators.