What Do I Need to Know?
- Around 22 million people in Italy are over the age of 55, meaning there’s a very large addressable market for senior-focused plans
- Each of the three mobile network operators offers a senior-focused plan, emphasizing ease and simplicity of use
- The plans from TIM and Vodafone offer zero-rated access to chat apps, like WhatsApp or iMessage
- TIM and WindTre’s plans offer dedicated customer support
- All three senior-focused plans are cheaper than the operators’ standard plans, but also have smaller data allowances
Italy’s over-65 population is the second-largest in the world after Japan, accounting for 22% of the population. A further 14% of Italians are between the ages of 55 and 64, meaning that the addressable market for senior-focused plans is over 22 million people.
Smartphone penetration is also comparatively high, at 60.8%. While Italy lags behind the US, the UK, Spain, Germany and France, along with South Korea and Russia, it lies eighth worldwide.
Figures on smartphone penetration among older consumers in Italy are difficult to find, but one may find a proxy by looking at ISTAT’s statistics for internet use by age. Among consumers aged 60-64, 44.8% of respondents reported using the internet every day, a group that likely intersects heavily with smartphone users in that same age bracket: daily use implies easy access to the internet, a tech-friendly attitude and sufficient financial stability to afford their own fixed or mobile broadband, rather than using it at internet cafés or libraries.
Italy has shown a similar interest in smartphone adoption as other economically advanced countries, with similar factors driving individual adoption. However, because fixed broadband isn’t as widely available as in other countries, a number of consumers have long used smartphones or mobile broadband as their main way to access the internet.
The reasons for older Italians to buy smartphones are similar to those of their counterparts in other countries, as well as younger consumers. The most commonly cited reasons are keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, surfing the internet and downloading directions. As noted below, the focus on communication has influenced the operators’ policy of zero-rating chat and VoIP apps on mobile plans.
A final factor in smartphone adoption among older consumers is the fact that smartphones are now effectively the only mobile phones available. While the operators do include one or two feature phone models in their offering, they are more likely to promote big brands (e.g. Apple, Samsung or Xiaomi) on their websites, and consumers have to actively search for feature phones. Additionally, while feature phones and smartphones explicitly aimed at older consumers are available, the operators don’t offer them.
What Are Operators Offering?
|TIM 60+ Senza Limiti|
|Unlimited voice (includes roaming in EU)|
SMS not listed
4GB data (overage: EUR1.90/200MB)
EUR12/month (EUR9.90 if you have TIM broadband)
Chat apps are zero-rated
Doctor TIM Mobile
|Unlimited voice and SMS|
4GB data (fair use policy)
Chat and VoIP apps are zero-rated
|Senior con EasyPay|
6GB (overage: EUR0.99 for 1GB per day)
Premium charging services blocked
Customer support through AnyTech 365
The common thread among these plans is simplicity and ease of use, as denoted by their names. Each offers unlimited voice minutes, a set bucket of high-speed data, and in the case of TIM and WindTre, special customer support is included, so that the user doesn’t have to get their children or grandchildren to help them (a big source of friction among families). TIM also offers a discount for consumers who have TIM fixed broadband at home.
Another notable feature is that TIM and Vodafone zero-rate chat apps, so that the services older consumers typically use to stay in touch with their families don’t count toward their data allowances. This rule is important because both operators offer less data than WindTre, to say nothing of the plans aimed at younger consumers.
Zero-rated chat and VoIP apps from TIM and Vodafone
WindTre’s senior-focused plan is unique in offering another key feature that blocks premium charging services. This is presumably intended to keep older users from falling prey to scams or being overcharged because they selected the wrong option. Certain services are exempt from this blockage, such as ticketing, banking, carrier billing and donations to charities or political parties.
While these plans all have good points, such as relatively low prices and zero-rated chat apps, it’s hard to recommend them as better deals than standard plans from the operators. The basic plans from each operator offer much more data, for example, and the prices aren’t commensurately high. In fact, WindTre offers over three times as much data for only EUR2 more per month, an especially good deal considering that its senior plan doesn’t zero-rate chat apps like its competitors.
Basic operator plans
|Plan||TIM Advance 4.5G||Vodafone Red||WindTre Start|
|Data allowance (GB)||40||40||20|
Looking beyond the main operators, mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are another option for older consumers who want inexpensive mobile plans. For example, Fastweb offers 70GB of 5G data and unlimited minutes and SMS for EUR7.95 per month, while PosteMobile sells Creami Wow 10GB, a basic plan offering unlimited voice and SMS, plus 10GB of 4G data, for EUR4.99 per month.
While the senior-focused plans from the three main operators appear to be relatively stripped down compared with the operators’ standard plans, they have been more clearly designed for older users than senior plans from mobile operators in the US, which tend to just be cheaper versions of the regular plan. The Italian plans’ names and propositions communicate that these plans are simple to use, relatively cheap, offer simple technical support, and communicating with family and friends on the ever-increasing array of chat and VoIP apps is free – all points that are probably very attractive to older consumers who want to stay connected.