Italian incumbent to pave the way for next-gen network with 4.5G upgrade this year.

TIM this week declared that the tiny state of San Marino will be the first in Europe to have a 5G network, announcing several interim upgrades planned for this year.

The Italian incumbent on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the San Marino government paving the way for TIM – also known as Telecom Italia – to start rolling out 4.5G infrastructure, such as 4×4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO); carrier aggregation; "advanced modulation" (presumably 256 quadrature amplitude modulation); and cloud architecture, as well as small cells.

The next step will see TIM test various 5G technologies and services in 2018, with a view to progressively introducing 5G to the whole of San Marino well ahead of the EU’s stated deadline of having 5G networks up and running in at least one city in every member state by 2020.

"This agreement adds another major building block to our strategy, allowing us 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," said Giovanni Ferigo, head of technology of TIM, in a statement.

While TIM’s ambition is laudable, it is worth highlighting that achieving blanket coverage in San Marino represents a fairly simpler task relative to bigger states, such as the aforementioned Japan and South Korea, for example.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the microstate of San Marino occupies an area of 61 square kilometres, approximately one third the size of Washington D.C., and has a population of just over 33,000 as of July 2016.