Vodafone Italy has inaugurated its new 4G network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) in Rome and Milan today (30 October), and intends to cover a further 20 cities by March 2013. The launch follows extensive trials at Vodafone’s research facility in Ivrea, a town in the north-west of the country. According to the cellco’s website Vodafone will initially offer LTE access via an ‘Internet Key 4G’ USB dongle, a Wi-Fi device and a Samsung Galaxy 8.9 tablet. All packages cost EUR30 (USD38.7) per month and include a 15GB data allowance, while the last named includes a EUR15 monthly supplement to cover the device itself.
In late-September 2011, after 22 days and 469 separate rounds of bidding, Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development (MdSE) confirmed that the country’s LTE spectrum auction finally closed, with all four mobile network operators – Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Vodafone, Wind Italy and 3 Italia – submitting combined bids worth in excess of EUR3.9 billion. For its part Vodafone secured three blocks of 2.6GHz spectrum, paying around EUR36 million per allocation, also going on to acquire two blocks of 800MHz spectrum as well as frequencies in the 1800MHz band, which were valued at EUR159 million.
Vodafone’s surprise launch means that the cellco has beaten rival TIM to the punch; earlier this month the market leader said that it intended to launch LTE services on 7 November, covering Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples; coverage is expected to be extended to a further 20 cities by the end of the year.