Telecom Italia announced the Republic of San Marino will be the first state in Europe – and one of the first in the world – to have a 5G mobile network.

The operator signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of the microstate, with plans to update the mobile sites of its network with 4.5G to enable it to trial “some of the features of 5G”, such as evolved mast towers and carrier aggregation, ahead of the release of interim 3GPP standards for the next-generation technology in March 2018.

Telecom Italia plans to double the number of existing mobile sites in San Marino and install several dozen small cells.

In a statement, the operator said: “The particular geographical shape of this territory, and the distribution of its industries favour the use and development of innovative technologies.”

“Thanks to this work, it will be possible to start the first testing of 5G technology on a national scale within the next year.”

Landlocked San Marino is one of the world’s smallest countries with a population of around 30,000, and an area of 61 square kilometres.

Capacity boost
The projects aims to make available: “a new mobile infrastructure with considerable transmission capacity – around ten times that of 4G – and able to connect a very large number of objects, well ahead of the 2020 European Union deadline.”

Examples of use cases in the region include remote surveillance and virtual reality to support tourism.

Giovanni Ferigo, head of technology for Telecom Italia Mobile, said the agreement will allow the operator to create: “the first 5G state in the world, projecting the Republic of San Marino into the future ahead of countries such as Japan and South Korea, which have always led the way in technological innovation.”

According to Financial Times, he said when it comes to 5G: “We need to experiment as soon as possible.”

The operator already began installing 100 small cells in Turin and is participating in Italian government 5G network trials, but it reportedly has more freedom in San Marino because there are fewer restrictions on the use of airwaves.

Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development said it would make spectrum available in the 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz bands for trials in five cities.

Ferigo said the work in San Marino would be crucial to 5G in Europe, and the company’s “intention is a European leadership in standardisation”.

Earlier this month a group of European operators, including Telecom Italia, pledged to move quickly to launch 5G services.