5G regulation and law in Italy

Information current as of 20 December 2019

What is the state of 5G deployment in Italy?

5G services are currently in a pre-commercial experimental phase in Italy. The 5G experimentation process started in 2017 and currently involves five Italian cities. 5G tests are being carried out in the following territories: Area 1 – metropolitan area of Milan; Area 2 – Prato and L’Aquila; Area 3 – Bari and Matera.

The tender to assign several frequencies to be used in connection with 5G services has already been awarded in Italy. According to current plans, the goal is to achieve availability of 5G services in most of the Italian territory by 2022.

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

The operators who won the tender and were assigned frequencies to launch 5G services in Italy are:

  • Telecom Italia S.p.A.
  • Vodafone Italia S.p.A.
  • Iliad S.p.A.
  • Wind Tre S.p.A.
  • Fastweb S.p.A.

The companies currently involved in the experimental phase launched by the Ministry of Economic Development in March 2017 are:

  • Vodafone (Milan);
  • Wind-Tre and Open Fiber (Prato and L’Aquila);
  • Tim, Fastweb and Huawei (Bari and Matera).

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licenses?

Yes, the public tender for the assignment of spectrum licenses has been finalized. On 9 October 2018, the Ministry of Economic Development assigned rights to use frequencies in the following bands: 700 MHz FDD, 3700 MHz, and 26 GHz.

What are the conditions?

Among other requirements set forth by the Tender Rules there is the possibility for companies to participate through consortia of companies, whereas a participant cannot be member of several consortia at the same time,  on condition that they assume, after the awarding and in any case before the release of the right of use, the form of a joint stock company which shall then comply with some additional requirements provided for by the Tender Rules.

The Tender Rules also provide for that the participants provide a technical report indicating the services that they intend to implement and the relevant technology to be used to this end.

Moreover, the Tender Rules provide for certain coverage obligations in the different spectrum: e.g. in the 700MHz FDD band, the awarded company  shall ensure a coverage of at least 80% of the national population and 99.4% within 54 months from the availability of the spectrum, also in indoor environments.

Moreover, by participating to the tender, the companies accept the obligation to actually use the awarded frequencies in the 700 MHz SDL, 3600-3800 MHz and 26 GHz band within strict timelines: 24 months from the issuing of the right of use, or from the nominal availability of the frequencies, if later, in the 3600-3800 MHz, 36 months in the 700MHz SDL band, and within 48 months in the 26 Ghz band. Within these timelines, the relevant companies are required to install the broadband or ultra-wide radio network and use the assigned frequencies, in accordance with the right of use granted, in all Italian provinces.

What has the government said regarding spectrum licences for commercial use?

According to the Italian government, 5G implementationconstitutes an important strategic area of interest. It places the country at the leading edge, both in terms of the quantity and quality of the spectrum made available to the electronic communication operators, and in the potential for developing innovative services for citizens, companies and public administration. The great potential of the 5G technology has also been foreseen by the Italian operators, especially those participating to the call for tender that generated a record turnover for Italy of more than 6 billion of euros.

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

The Italian telecoms regulator, AGCOM, has drawn up the rules for the use of the frequencies available in the bands 694 – 790 MHz, 3600 – 3800 MHz and 26.5 – 27.5 GHz for terrestrial systems of electronic communications in order to implement the transition to 5G technology (Resolution 231/18/CONS).

The assigned frequencies were made available from 1 January 2019 for the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz and 26.5 – 27.5 Ghz bands while the 700 MHz frequency will be made available from 1 July 2022.

The usage rights will terminate on 31 December 2037; they may be renewed but cannot be assigned without the prior consent of the Ministry of Economic Development.

It is worth noting that 5G technology is included in the scope of application of the Italian legal framework related to the Golden Power regime (Law Decree n.21/2012) that has been amended, most recently, with the Law Decree n.105 of 21 September 2019, converted into state law. The scope of application of the Golden Power relates to the conclusion of agreements with non-EU entities concerning:

  1. the purchase of goods and services related to the design, implementation, maintenance and operation of the 5G networks; and/or
  2. the acquisition of related high-tech components.

Through this framework, the Italian Government can exercise the Golden Power either by imposing mitigation measures or by exercising a veto on the relevant transaction if the mitigation measures would not be sufficient to limit the risks related to the integrity and security of networks and data.

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

In order to guarantee a broad territorial coverage of the 5G service, the tender rules provide for an obligation for the assignees of the frequencies to cooperate. In fact, the assignees of the 700 Mhz frequencies are jointly bound to reach coverage of 99.4% of the national population. This target must be reached within 54 months from the date on which the frequencies have been made available, and on the basis of agreements between the assignees themselves. Within 14 months of the assignment of the frequencies, in order to achieve that objectives, all assignees must jointly draw up a plan that includes the system for monitoring its implementation. The plan must be submitted to the Ministry of Economic Development and to AGCOM and updated annually. Failure to comply with the provisions of the agreements implies the revocation of the rights of all assignees in the relevant areas. In the event of a revocation, no cost reimbursement will be made.

The tender rules also identify extra-urban areas where each assignee must provide a roaming service for the benefit of all other assignees (through frequencies pooling) based on reciprocity principles, in order to guarantee a seamless service. These extra-urban areas represent the crucial national networks for road, rail, and maritime transport.

The cooperation requested from all assignees extends to the sharing of information concerning the technical characteristics and the location of the installed infrastructure. Requests for this information can be submitted from one assignee to another on the basis of reciprocity or simply in specific cases.

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Italo de Feo