In their quest to find the right mobile broadband supplier, Italians can now count on extra help: the measurements provided by AgCom, the local telecoms regulator.
On Wednesday, the watchdog published the findings of its first nationwide tests of mobile connectivity quality for the four main operators in Italy.
By breaking down the numbers for each of Italy's 20 regions, AgCom's scores offer consumers some indication on what brand delivers the best connection in the different zones of the Boot, showing how much variation in performance there could be from one operator to another in the various areas.
If you live in Genova, in the north west of Italy, for instance, you might be tempted to go for Tre (Three's Italian arm). According to AgCom, the H3G-controlled operator will give you an average download speed of 9.3Mbps, compared to 5.7Mbps with Telecom Italia, 7.0Mbps with Vodafone and 6.0Mbps with Wind.
But if you plan to connect to the internet in the Southern city of Bari and value your download speeds, then you might be inclined to opt for Telecom Italia and Vodafone. There, their average speed, as calculated by AgCom, re respectively 7.2Mbps and 7.0Mbps, while Tre (5.6Mbps) and Wind (4.4Mbps) lag behind.
The watchdog's analysis found that in some places, such as Trento in the north east, there doesn't seem to be much of a contest. When it comes to who's the fastest, Telecom Italia (11.1Mbps) offers almost double the speeds of the rest of the pack. It's the same in Potenza, in the south, with Vodafone (6.8Mbps) clearly standing out compared to its rivals. However in other areas, like Milan in the north or Ancona in the centre, the race is more closely run.
Download speeds is not the only variable taken into account by AgCom's measurements: the watchdog has also studied upload speed (if you're in Rome and eager to share content, giving Telecom Italia a try is probably wise), round trip time and jitter too.
Looking at the country as a whole, AgCom's data shows Vodafone outperforming rivals when it comes to download speeds while Telecom Italia tops the rest for uploads. Wind seems to come distant fourth in both categories.
AgCom's analysis was carried out using USB dongles provided by the carriers on the same plans commercially available to consumers. The goal of the tests — according to AgCom, which will perform these tests twice a year — is to evaluate the performance of the carriers using the best technology they currently provide on the market.
"We want to give the consumers the opportunity to compare various offers both in terms of price and quality," Sergio Del Grosso, head of AgCom's QoS Office, told ZDNet. "Plus, the mobile carriers can get insights on where to make their network better, which should benefit the market overall."
In the future, the Italian telecoms authority hopes to start testing phones as well. "We are planning to compare the carriers' directly on smartphones, so users can see how the mobile providers perform on the same top of the range device," Del Grosso said.