Telecom Italia to offer high-speed mobile service

MILAN (Reuters) - Telecom Italia unveiled on Wednesday a new service as part of plans to upgrade its mobile network, amid calls by Italy’s telecom regulator for more investment and rival plans to boost mobile broadband coverage.

Telecom Italia, Italy’s largest telecom operator, said its new service would allow users in Milan and Rome to enjoy speeds of up to 21 Megabits per second over a wireless network, up from a maximum of 14.4 Mbit/second now.

The service, to be rolled out nationwide gradually, is part of the company’s plans to develop its mobile network to keep up with the growing amount of traffic generated by mobile phones, USB modems, smartphones and tablet computers, it said.

“In Italy, there is little use of broadband at home and a lot on the go,” Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabe told a news conference, noting that 30 percent of Italian users of the social networking site Facebook do so via the mobile network.

“In terms of usage of large screens (tablets) while on the go, we’re only second to the United Kingdom (in Europe), but if the trend continues, we’ll be in first place.”

Costs to implement the new service are already included in the company’s three-year investment plan, Bernabe said.

The use of mobile broadband has surged in cellphone-loving Italy, prompting the country’s telecom regulator to warn earlier this year that soaring data traffic levels risk triggering a collapse of the mobile network.

Telecom operators have also begun focusing on the mobile broadband segment as one of the key drivers of growth in coming years. Vodafone, one of Telecom Italia’s key competitors in the mobile market, earlier this month said it would invest about 1 billion euros to boost mobile broadband coverage in Italy over the next three to four years.

Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo; Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Elaine Hardcastle