Italy has the highest 3G penetration in Europe and 3Italia achieved over 700,000 subscribers for its Mobile TV service by August 2007. Now iPhone is taking centre stage over the UMTS networks of mobile operators TIM and Vodafone. "This looks like it's a done deal and if it is the case, then it just goes to show that between the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 Italy has been a hotbed for mobile communications" says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Saverio Romeo.
At the beginning of 2007, the auction for the WIMAX licenses had caused quite a stir and ended with the Ministry of Communications selling 35 licenses by the beginning of 2008. In June 2007, Coop's Coop Voce and Carrefour's Uno Mobile were the first MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) to launch in the country. The number of MVNOs is growing month to month with new brands being launched all the time. Poste Mobile, Auchan, Conad and perhaps Fastweb and Tiscali by the end of the year are some of the names coming forward. To add to this dynamic picture, iPhone, the latest icon of mobile communications, is also launching by the end of 2008.
The Italian market is consolidating its lead as the most advanced market for mobile communications. At the end of 2007, mobile penetration had achieved a staggering 141%, with 3G set at 38% during the same period. "Italian mobile operators are decidedly investing in HSDPA and HSUPA", adds Romeo. "The market for mobile content is one of the most dynamic in Europe. At the end of 2007, revenues for mobile content were estimated to be close to €1200 million. This data suggests that the Italian market is mature, close to saturation and ready to take on new challenges"
Frost & Sullivan's Research Analyst Saverio Romeo is certain of this: if the iPhone's price proves to be reasonable, then the Italian consumer will be no different than the German or the British consumer and will welcome the introduction of the new device. Price will play an important role given the economic crisis currently gripping Italy.
Mobile content, online mobile communities and mobile advertising are the future of this market. "Let's not forget about the increasing role that mobile and wireless technologies will play in several vertical markets". Romeo goes on to say "Transportation, health care, control systems, business planning and organisation, energy, urban and construction planning are just some of the areas that are looking for practical applications. Mobile communications are all about advanced communications, mobile contents and vertical markets. Italy seems to be right at the core of all this"
According to Romeo, in order to retain their central roles, operators will need to focus on innovation and creativity and avoid strategies that would not work in the highly saturated Italian market. Government support could help by stimulating research and development and Internet usage among the public. Since Italy is one of the least developed countries in Europe when it comes to Internet usage, the country needs a concerted approach by all the mobile operators and to successfully meet all these future challenges.
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