In Italy, via a public tender the Ministry of Economic Development identified the 3.6-3.8 GHz band of the spectrum and made it available for pre-commercial 5G trials.

The tender was a response to the European Commission’s objective that at least one major city in every member state be “5G enabled” by the end of 2020 and that all urban areas and the main transport paths have uninterrupted 5G coverage by 2025.

Open Fiber and Wind Tre combined their expertise, infrastructure and investment capacity to participate in the public tender with a 5G City project which supplies innovative services with a major impact in terms of social and economic utility. On 22 September 2017, the Ministry of Economic Development sent its provisional authorisation to Open Fiber and Wind Tre for the development of a pre-commercial 5G trial in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band of the spectrum in area 2 – Prato and L’Aquila by exercising the right to use the 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz frequencies. The usage rights can be exercised exclusively with 5G technology solutions from the allocation date through to 30 June 2020.

Prato and L’Aquila, the “5G cities”

Despite having their own unique features, the two metropolitan areas share replicability characteristics and are well positioned to trial the so-called “5G City” model in which technology prioritises citizens and enables innovative services that can improve quality of life and work, such as telemedicine, advanced traffic systems, smart grid solutions, the evolution of the manufacturing industry and augmented reality.

The trial will last 2 and-a-half years and will see Open Fiber and Wind Tre implement network technology solutions that trial two different network models: the neutral host model in the city of Prato (Open Fiber) and the vertically integrated operator model in the city of L’Aquila (Wind Tre).

In the neutral host (infrastructure owner) model proposed by Open Fiber it is the Operator that develops and manages the infrastructure, offering ‘slices’ of network capacity to the various 5G service providers – retail TLC operators, OTT content providers, businesses or local authorities – with the aim of providing services to the end user.

Thanks to synergic work between the neutral host, local public authorities and local businesses it is possible, on one hand, to develop a telecommunications network maximising the reuse of existing infrastructure and reducing its costs and, on the other, to provide services to local businesses and socially useful services to people, fostering the evolution of new business models.

The vertically integrated operator model proposed by Wind Tre to provide an end-to-end service to the final user will play a key role in the development of 5G networks, particularly in use cases where radio coverage and mobility are of key importance.

During the trial it will be important to assess the coexistence of 5G technology with the existing 4G network, the portability of services currently accessible on the LTE network and the improvements that can be made.

In the areas made available by the Ministry of Economic Development for the 5G trial in the cities of Prato and L’Aquila, the most suitable sites have been identified for offering next-generation services in both the historic centres, where the majority of the local authorities are based, and in some particularly important suburban areas due to the presence of business complexes or universities. When making these choices particular attention was also focused on the possibility of interconnecting the various sites using fibre optics in order to maximise network performance.