Mobile Phones Exceed Wired Ones in Italy

The mobile phone craze has reached a new benchmark in Italy: There are now more mobile handsets than conventional, wired telephones.

While the number of fixed-line phones has barely budged from 25.2 million in years, according to the Telecommunications Authority in Italy, the number of mobile subscribers has grown rapidly.

The total number of mobile subscribers in Italy is now 25.5 million, according to data from the country's three main providers. By summer's end, because of special seasonal offers by operators, that number is predicted by analysts to jump to 26 million. By the end of the year, there will be 28 million mobile phones in Italy, say analysts and industry observers. This market will continue to grow at a very high rate at least until 2004 when forecasts say there will be around 50 million mobile phones, one for each Italian citizen. Today 43 percent of Italians own and use a mobile phone.

This could be good news also for the fourth mobile operator, Blutel, which will begin operations here next March.

The future of this market is even brighter thanks also to the new standard called UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), the next generation of mobile communications systems. These systems are expected to be operating within two years. UMTS will make it possible to use mobile phones not just for voice calls but also for videoconferencing, high-speed data transmission and Internet access.

Vittorio Colao, the new Amministratore Delegato (CEO) of Omnitel said recently that the market may still grow significantly. He predicted that every Italian citizen older than 13 will have a phone. If correct, this means about 80 percent to 85 percent of the total population will own a mobile phone.

Tommaso Pompei, Amministratore Delegato of Wind, the third Italian mobile phone operator, agreed. Wind, which has a licence also for fixed lines, confirmed that among Wind customers, two-thirds prefer mobile phones, while only one-third request fixed lines.

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