Upstart’s epic growth is at expense of rivals’ customer base
Italian regulator Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Agcom) has disclosed that aggressive newcomer Iliad has been taking customers away from its rivals Telecom Italia (TIM), Vodafone and WindTre. Its current SIM-count of 9 million customers gives it a positive growth of 1.6% while all the more established operators have seen subscriber numbers decline. “It is continuing to eat away at its rivals’ markets shares,” according to Mary Lennighan in Telecoms.com. The shift comes as Italy’s TV broadcasters liberalised 700 MHz spectrum band as which means the nation’s telcos are set to begin the next stage of 5G rollout.
The Italian division of the Iliad Group has been regarded as a disruptor since it launched as the country’s fourth mobile network operator in May 2018 with cheap alternatives, such as this €9.99 a month offer in January 2021. “At the core of the operator’s ongoing growth trend is trust,” Iliad said, as in “transparency and commitment to retain its low-cost pricing plans. However, that trust was tested in July 2020 when iliad’s Free brand was fined €800,000 by the Italian Data Protection Authority for illegally processing data for promotional activities via SMS, email, fax and by phone conducted without users’ agreement.
Despite these indiscretions a recent Ipsos survey gave it a customer satisfaction score of over 97%, bettering TIM, Vodafone and WindTre. It must be retaining customers too, given its growing customer base. According to Agcom’s last count at the end of 2021, Iliad had 10.9% of the total number of Italian mobile subscribers, a 1.6% rise on the previous year, while its encumbent rivals all saw their market share decline. Now there is to be a fresh source of ‘disruption’ as, from July 1st, Italy’s TV broadcasters were told to clear the 700 Mhz frequencies for use by the nation’s mobile operators. According to this report in Italian news site Mondo Mobile Web, the bandwidth is ready to be frequented by mobile users and network sliced by operators.
In September 2018 the Italian government announced that the 700MHz spectrum block had been allocated to TIM, Vodafone and the aggressive price disruptor Iliad, with the three operators spending €2.04 billion to secure a share of those low-band frequencies. Vodafone and TIM spent €683.2 million and €680.2 million respectively on 10MHz of paired spectrum each in the 700MHz band. Those investments in 5G have yet to bring their full returns. Now, with TIM in an uncertain period of transition, WindTre allegedly losing smartphone users to cheaper brands (according to OpenSignal) and the CEO of Vodafone Italy’s parent group calling for the regulators to allow four-to-three consolidation, the story of the Iliad could soon include a merger.