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11 December 2004

Little enthusiam for new 3G mobile services - Italy

Italians have been among the world most enthusiastic adopters of mobile telephony, and are among its keenest users. Beginning 2004, in Italy the number of mobile subscriptions was about 55 M. Even considering that most subscriptions are for prepaid accounts (according to the Italian Telecom Regulator, in 2002 80% were prepaid) and many people have more than one subscription, 55M is still a very large number of mobile subscriptions for a country of 58 M people.

How are Italians reacting to the Mobile Operators' UMTS offer of new data, multimedia, video mobile services?
The Corriere della Sera article, dated November 15th and titled Ricerca: il 31% vuole comprare un cellulare UMTS, does not report much excitement about this innovation. The article is based on a survey carried out by opinion research institute ISPO on behalf of Vodafone. It concerned a representative sample of 4198 people from age 14 who were interviewed at home between the 22 and 24 October of this year. Of these 4198 people, 2922 possess a cellular phone.

Existing mobile usage
Looking at current mobile usage, the survey finds that three services: voice (25%); voice and SMS (30%); voice, SMS and SMS push info (22%) account for more than three quarters of what mobile users do. Close to one in five mobile users (18%) also use photo or video services.

Knowledge of UMTS
The majority of interviewees (56%) have never heard of UMTS or 3rd generation technologies. A relatively large group (31%) have heard of them but don't really know what they are, while a smaller group knows what they are (13%). I find this finding puzzling as media and advertising have been talking about UMTS and 3rd generation on a regular basis since 1999.   

Interest for UMTS services
Asked to express their level of interest with respect to 5 services: richer communication; fast Internet navigation and email; always-on; downloading and listening to Hi-Fi music; gaming and real-time TV; the majority of interviewees expressed no or little interest in all five services. Services that were rated interesting where communication and fast Internet. Four out of ten respondents rated then as very (11%) or quite (29%) interesting.

Intention to buy a 3G-UMTS phone as next mobile phone
Close to half the interviewees say they do not intend to buy a UMTS-3G phone (for sure, 21%, probably not 23%) when they'll replace their current phone. One in three say they intend to: 26% say they probably will and 5% certainly will.      

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