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UK among most expensive countries for mobile data

The UK ranks 136th in the world for the average cost of 1GB of mobile data, according to new statistics

Brits are paying out an average of $6.66 (£5.05) for every gigabyte (GB) of mobile broadband data they consume, compared with just $0.26 in India, and $1.16 in Finland, the cheapest Western European country, according to a global study conducted by broadband and mobile service comparison site Cable.co.uk.

The data contained in the study was gathered from an analysis of multiple mobile SIM-only packages (that include SMS and voice minutes) on the market around the world. It reveals massive global disparities in the cost of mobile broadband data and shows that some of the world’s poorest people are among those being charged the most.

For example, in Zimbabwe – the most expensive place to use mobile broadband – users can expect to pay an average cost of $75.20 per GB, 289 times the average cost in India, where huge economies of scale in terms of subscribers means local operators can offer vast amounts of data very cheaply. Other African countries, such as Benin, Chad, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea, were also among the most expensive.

Also towards the expensive end of the list were many small, isolated island countries, where the reverse conditions to those found in India prevail – that is to say, tiny subscriber bases making it harder to offer value for money. These include Nauru, Samoa and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

However, Cable telecoms analyst Dan Howdle said these findings did not necessarily mean consumers would always think they were getting a bad deal. Indeed, in some countries the opposite would be true.

“At the more expensive end of the list, we have countries where often the infrastructure isn’t great but also where consumption is very small,” he said. “People are often buying data packages of just tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy.

“Many countries in the middle of the list have good infrastructure and competitive mobile markets, and while their prices aren’t among the cheapest in the world, they wouldn’t necessarily be considered expensive by its consumers.”

At the cheaper end of the list are a number of former Soviet states, a couple of African countries, and other countries in southern and eastern Asia. Consumers in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Rwanda, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Russia and Bangladesh can all expect to pay under $1 per GB of data.

“Many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories,” said Howdle. “Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure, and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte. Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford.”

Read more about mobile broadband data

In Western Europe, the Italians, French and Spanish can expect to pay an average of $1.73, $2.99 and $3.79 per GB, respectively, while the Germans are roughly on a par with the Brits at $6.96 per GB. In Norway, users can expect to pay $13.21, in Portugal $13.98, and in Switzerland $20.22.

“When looking at the UK compared to our European and EU counterparts, it is disappointing to see the UK among the most expensive countries for mobile data,” said Howdle.

“Despite a healthy UK marketplace, our study has uncovered that EU nations such as Finland, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Austria and France pay a fraction of what we pay in the UK for similar data usage. It will be interesting to see how our position is affected post-Brexit.”

Elsewhere in the world, Americans and Canadians can expect to pay an average of $12.37 and $12.02 per GB, respectively, reflecting similar market conditions and dynamics in both countries. Australians, meanwhile, can expect to pay $2.47 per GB, and New Zealanders $9.49.

Cable lists 232 states, also including a number of dependencies and other territories such as Aruba, the Falkland Islands, Guam, Jersey and the Isle of Man, and countries not recognised by the UN, such as Taiwan. It excludes a number of sovereign states where not enough qualifying packages exist, including Eritrea, North Korea, South Sudan, the Vatican and Venezuela.

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