Home / Blog / 5G in Italy: Isn’t this strange? May be it isn’t…

5G in Italy: Isn’t this strange? May be it isn’t…

A screenshot of the latest Vodafone offer in Italy: you get unlimited data on the 5G network but only 10GB on the 4G one (all at a very low price, 9.99€ including unlimited calls and messages).

Two years ago when 5G was getting ready (well, almost) to launch, people were discussing what kind of “premium” price it would (could) have. I should say I was very skeptical on the possibility to charge a premium price on it, at least in Europe and for sure in Italy. It turned out I was right.

Everywhere in Europe you get 5G at the same price of 4G.

Now I stumbled onto an offer by Vodafone (Italy) promising unlimited data on 5G as long as you are also subscribing to their fixed (fibre) network at a very low price (9.99€ per month including an all you can eat voice and messaging).

Well, no surprise with this, it is just along the slippery slope of price cuts to face competition. What really surprised me was reading the fine print!  There you discover (I took a screenshot and used it as the image opening this post) is that you get “unlimited” data on 5G but only 10 GB on 4G! (they call it 4.5 but that is just marketing…).

At first glance it just sound crazy! You get unlimited data on the much more performant 5G network and only a meagre 10 GB on 4G. You would have expected the reverse…

However, this is telling us a lot on 5G in Italy:

  • there is very little traffic on 5G because: probably because there are few 5G phones around. Possibly, if you are like myself, people stick to 4G to avoid draining the battery (when you are on 5G you are also on 4G to manage voice traffic, hence one of the reason your smartphone gets hot and its battery depletes quickly). Vodafone 5G network is probably experiencing very little traffic…
  • the 5G coverage is still very limited, so most of the time you have to use 4G
  • increasing further the capacity of the 4G network might not be appealing since 5G can deliver more bandwidth per € ($), so for an operator it could make sense to shift traffic to 5G to offload the 4G network.

All in all, the hope of charging a premium price on 5G seems definitely dead, at least in Italy!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.