Telecom Italia aims to win LTE launch race, but Vodaofone may spoil party

Telecom Italia, the country's largest operator, plans to launch LTE service early next month in the race to be first to offer high-bandwidth coverage.

The operator said that customers in Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples will be able to access LTE starting Nov. 7, with another 20 cities targeted for coverage by the end of the year.

However, Vodafone Italia could spoil Telecom Italia's party by launching its service on Oct. 30 in Rome and Milan. The company has been conducting LTE trials using the 1800 MHz band in the Italian city of Ivrea, together with test coverage at Vodafone stores in Rome and Milan, according to the newspaper Corriere delle Comunicazioni.

Rival operators Wind and 3 Italy have not yet unveiled their LTE plans, although Wind recently called for LTE network sharing and is alone in not owning 1800 MHz spectrum, according to Mobile Europe.

Commenting on the situation, Pyramid Research analyst Olena Kaplan noted in a recent study: "Both 3 Italy and Vodafone claim they will make LTE services commercially available by the end of 2012. A number of trials are currently underway in Italy to analyse the use of 800 MHz for LTE services to see if there is any interference with TV services."

Telecom Italia invested €1.2 billion to acquire 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz frequencies in Italy's spectrum reallocation earlier this year. Italy included allocations within the 1800 MHz bands in the LTE auction, unlike some other European countries, together with the sale of new bands at 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz, according to Mobile Europe.

Telecom Italia said that its LTE service will initially be targeted at tablet and laptop customers who want much faster broadband, with smartphones becoming available at a later date.

For more:
- see this Telecom Italia statement
- see this Corriere delle Comunicazioni article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Mobile Europe article
- see this Pyramid Research release.

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