Mobile network operator Vodafone Italia has launched its new 4G network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) in Rome and Milan, with plans to cover a further 20 Italian cities by March 2013.
The global telecommunications company has beaten its competitors in the race to introduce the enhanced service, which follows the LTE spectrum auction by Italy's ministry of economic development to buyers Vodafone, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Wind Italy and 3 Italia.
The 4G system provides mobile ultra-broadband internet access to mobile devices such as laptops with USB wireless modems and smartphones, and users of 4G can access up to 100MB per second for downloading and 50MB per second for uploads. This means Vodafone subscribers will be able to access services similar to wi-fi at home, streaming, video etc. on their phones.
Vodafone claims that, while 4G coverage is still being set up, users can continue to use their 4G-activated phones in 3G areas, and can even move between the two without loss of connection - the phones will automatically use the best signal available.
Vodafone is initially offering LTE access via an internet key 4G USB dongle, a wi-fi device and a Samsung Galaxy 8.9 tablet. All packages cost €30 per month and include a 15GB data allowance.
Prior to the launch, Vodafone Italia implemented a series of coverage trials in the north-west Italian city of Ivrea and Brusson in Valle d'Aosta, as well as at Vodafone shops in Milan's Piazza S. Babila and Via Orefici, and Rome's Via Cola di Rienzo.
In mid-October TIM announced that on 7 November it will launch LTE services compatible with iPhone 5 in Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples, with coverage to be extended to a further 20 cities by the end of this year.