Frequently Asked Question #33:
Q: How available are ADSL and ISDN in Italy?
ISDN is available throughout Italy. As in other countries, it is easy to combine two data channels to get a combined data throughput of 128 Kbits/second, even from the free ISP (Internet Service Provider) services for which you pay only the cost of the call. For a free Italian internet service provider, see our internet FAQ.
ADSL is widely available in the cities and towns, and is becoming increasingly available in rural areas. For availability of ADSL in specific areas, use this Telecom Italia ADSL Availability Checker. You need to put in a phone number - if you don't have one, just put in the number of somewhere nearby - to find out if you can get ADSL. It's the tool that Telecom Italia engineers themselves use, and the answers it gives can be considered definitive.
ADSL 7 Mega
If the telephone exchange in your comune is connected to a fibre optic backbone, it is likely that it will be fitted with a DSLAM that enables you to have up to 7 Mbits/second ADSL ("ADSL Bitstream ATM fino a 7M").
ADSL 640 K
If the telephone exchange in your comune is not connected to a fibre optic backbone, ADSL may still be available, but only at a maximum download speed of 640 Kbits/second ("ADSL Bitstream ATM fino a 640K"). Exchanges without a fibre connection use either a 32 Mbit or 64 Mbit mini-DSLAM: the 32 Mbit version serves 50 users, and the 64 Mbit version serves 100 users. In either case, the absolute limit per user (i.e per single pair of copper wires) is 640 Kbits/second. Mini-DSLAMs were supplied to remote comuni in Italy under the Anti Digital Divide (ADD) program: it is the very minimum level of service that should now be available everywhere in Italy. If even this basic level of copper-based ADSL service is not available in your comune, complain to the sindaco (mayor) of the comune!
Very often you will see that SHDSL (Single-pair High speed Digital Subscriber Line) is also available ("SHDSL Bitstream 2M"). A few points about this option to consider:
- Unlike ADSL, SHDSL can't share a line with a conventional analogue telephone. If you want to keep your existing analogue telephone, SHDSL will need an additional line.
- The main benefit of SHDSL is the symmetric data rate - in this case, the download and upload speeds are both 2 Mbit/second. Unless you are running a server or a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you probably don't need an upload speed as high as this.
- An SHDSL line is much more expensive than any of the conventional ADSL offerings: it is aimed primarily at business users.
If the wired DSL solutions are either unavailable or unsuitable, you might want to consider one of the wireless options - either terrestrial Wi-Fi or Satellite.
A wide range of terrestrial wireless DSL (WDSL) services are available - rather more than can easily be summarized here. In Piedmont, the regione operates a website that is dedicated to providing up-to-date information on the availability of these services in each comune - you can find it at www.wi-pie.org. Most comuni have at least one terrestrial WDSL service available.
One WDSL service we can definitely recommend is EOLO Wireless Broadband from the private company NGI. EOLO is very reliable - much more reliable than any of the wired ADSL services - and its latency is very low, which means that free telephony services such as Skype run very well on it. To use EOLO your roof must have unobstructed line-of-sight to one of their hilltop-mounted transmitters - follow the link Mappe Copertura for a map that shows their locations.
Broadband via Satellite
If you are in a rural area of Italy where ADSL, SHDSL and WDSL are all unavailable, but you must have broadband internet, there's only one other option: broadband via satellite. In Italy this service is available from at least two providers: Satlink - download their European service brochure here - and Tooway. In both cases the data is sent both ways by satellite, so you don't even need to have a phone line - all you need is a PC with an Ethernet interface.
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