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While Italy’s national economy is still in the doldrums, the mobile economy is a different story. Increases in mobile device and content sales, mobile data traffic, mcommerce and mobile payments are all driving rapid expansion in the Italian mobile sector, according to figures from the Osservatorio Mobile Economy del Politecnico di Milano presented at a recent conference, “Mobile Economy: la via per la digitalizzazione del Paese.”
The Osservatorio reported that at the end of 2014, there were 35.0 million smartphones in use in Italy as well as 9.5 million tablets. By the end of this year, those numbers were expected to reach 40.0 million and 10.0 million, respectively. Sales of such devices grew by 3% in 2014 and accounted for nearly one-fifth of the mobile market last year.
Simultaneously, investment in high-capacity LTE mobile networks now ensures coverage for an estimated 80% of the population, and tariffs for mobile internet use have fallen. As a result, almost 18 million unique users went online every day via smartphone or tablet, compared with fewer than 13 million residents who accessed via a PC.
eMarketer forecasts also point to sharp increases in the number of mobile internet users in Italy. Last year, an estimated 25.6 million people used a mobile phone to go online at least once per month; in 2015, 30.1 million are expected to do so.
The Osservatorio calculated that the total value of Italy’s mobile economy rose 23% in 2014 to reach €25.7 billion ($34.10 billion), equivalent to 1.65% of GDP. According to researchers, that value will rise by an average 14% annually between 2015 and 2017. Within three years, the mobile economy was forecast to be worth more than €37 billion ($49.10 billion), or 2.3% of GDP.
Two segments will likely demonstrate the most meteoric growth during the forecast period: mobile payments and mobile commerce. Proximity payments and mobile point-of-sale transactions will add billions of euros to the total, for example.
With respect to mcommerce, combined sales of goods and services rose by 55% in 2014, accounting for 10% of the mobile economy and 18% of total Italian ecommerce, the Osservatorio found. Even more explosive growth lies ahead in this area, though; mcommerce was projected to more than triple in value and account for nearly 40% of Italy’s ecommerce sales in 2017.
The purchase of mobile content specifically—including games, video, music, news and other categories—approached €1 billion ($1.33 billion) last year, a gain of 18%. App store purchases made up 40% of this. Between 2014 and 2017, mobile content sales were expected to increase by 48%.
Revenues from mobile data delivery and mobile device sales should also rise between 2014 and 2017, by 37% and 13%, respectively, the Osservatorio forecast.
The only sector of Italy’s mobile economy predicted to lose value in the same period was the traditional mobile telephone segment. Such businesses were expected see revenues 18% lower in 2017 than in 2014.
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