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Telecom Italia kicks off Italy's road to LTE-A with 180Mbps launch

The Italian incumbent has launched superfast 4G coverage in 60 cities nationwide.

Telecom Italia announced this week that it had rolled out LTE-A, the faster successor to 4G LTE, in a number of Italian cities.

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LTE-A, also known as LTE-Advanced or 4G+, became commercially available in Italy for the first time on Wednesday when Telecom Italia lit up the network in over 60 towns and cities across the country. Among those to get LTE-A coverage this week were Rome, Milan, Naples, and Pisa. 

At launch, consumers can expect maximum theoretical download speeds of 180Mbps, Telecom Italia said, and real-world download speeds around double those available on 4G previously. The operator said it will increase speeds to 225Mbps early next year.

The speed bump comes courtesy of carrier aggregation, where spectrum bands in different frequencies are combined to increase data rates. In Telecom Italia's case, it's aggregating spectrum in the 800MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz bands.

Consumers and businesses that already have 4G tariffs will get to use LTE-A for free until next April. However, currently only one handset that Telecom Italia sells - the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - is compatible with the network. The operator said it will bring in more LTE-A friendly devices "in the coming weeks".

Telecom Italia began testing LTE-A in Turin earlier this year . While Telecom Italia is the only operator in Italy with commercially available LTE-A services today, it won't be alone for long: rival Vodafone has been trialling the technology in Naples and expects to launch it on its network in 2015 .

In recent months, a number of operators around Europe have also switched on their LTE-A networks for customers. Among them are Vodafone and  EE in the UK , Swisscom in Switzerland , and Vodafone in Spain , while all three of Estonia's main carriers are planning LTE-A rollouts before the end of the year.

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