Italy’s long-standing financial troubles have been a major roadblock to government investment in infrastructure, including the networks required for 21st-century communications systems. Improvements are still needed—but thankfully most consumers no longer struggle with underperforming fixed-line phone and internet connections, according to research from the Office of Communications (Ofcom) – UK, which covers nine countries: Australia, Japan, Sweden and the US as well as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK (the EU-5).
Italy offers the clearest case in the EU-5 of mobile devices eclipsing more traditional connections. Fixed infrastructure is less crucial to online access, for example. In October 2015, just 68% of adult web users in Italy used fixed broadband weekly or more often to go online, compared with 79% in the UK and 84% in France. Similarly, in Italy only six in 10 internet users made phone calls each week with a fixed-line phone at home, compared with 70% in Spain and 78% in Germany.
Overall, 89% of web users in Italy used a mobile phone or smartphone weekly in October 2015, Ofcom reported. Only Spain registered a higher incidence of mobile use that month, at 91%.
Italy was even further ahead in mobile internet use. It was the only European nation sampled by Ofcom in which more than half (51%) of online adults used a mobile handset at least once per week to access the web. Spain came closest to equaling this, with 49%. But in France, Germany, Sweden and the UK, the share of respondents going online with a mobile phone weekly was no more than 33%.
Ofcom’s data tallies with eMarketer’s view that smartphones are fast becoming the key device for Italy's internet users. An estimated 83.2% of that group will have a smartphone in 2016, and that share is expected to pass 92% in 2018.
Cisco Systems has also pointed to rapid growth in smartphone penetration in Italy, forecasting that the number of advanced handsets in use will reach 63 million in 2019. Moreover, smartphones are predicted to account for 68% of all data traffic in Italy that year, as the share of traffic passing via laptops and desktops shrinks to 5%.