Cable.co.uk carried out a study between 3rd February and 25th February 2020, collecting data from 5,554 mobile data plans across 228 countries, trying to find out the average mobile data pricing for one gigabyte (1GB) of mobile data.
From the study, it emerged that India is the cheapest country in terms of the average cost of 1GB data. It only costs $0.09. On the other hand, Saint Helena emerged as the most expensive, with 1GB going for as much as $52.50.
Eight out of the top 50 cheapest countries in the world for mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is in stark contrast to the cost of broadband on the continent, which is almost universally very high or non-existent.
Countries with cheapest Mobile Data Pricing in Sub Saharan Africa
Still, Sub-Saharan Africa also lays claim to some of the most expensive nations in the world for mobile data, as depicted in the table below:
Countries with the most expensive Mobile Data Pricing in Sub Saharan Africa
In Northern Africa, the cheapest country in the region is Algeria, with an average of $0.65, followed by Western Sahara and Morocco (both $0.99). These three make it into the world’s top 40 nations with cheapest mobile data. Libya, the most expensive country in Northern Africa, still avoids the bottom 50 with an average price of $4.73 per GB.
Worldwide, the five most expensive countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are:
- São Tomé and Príncipe – $28.26
- Bermuda – $28.75
- Nauru – $30.47
- Falkland Islands – $40.41
- Saint Helena – $52.50
Close scrutiny reveals that all these countries are island nations. Islands are less likely to have extensive fibre infrastructure, and since mobile networks normally rely on fibre connections, other more expensive solutions such as satellite uplinks have been instituted, making it more expensive.
On the other hand, the five cheapest countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are:
- India – $0.09
- Israel – $0.11
- Kyrgyzstan – $0.21
- Italy – $0.43
- Ukraine – $0.46
Again, none of these countries are islands. Furthermore, they either contain excellent fibre broadband infrastructure (Italy, India, Ukraine, Israel) or in the case of Kyrgyzstan, rely heavily on mobile data as the primary means to keep its populace connected to the rest of the world.
Factors that Inform a Country’s Mobile Data Pricing
Excellent infrastructure: Countries with long-established, robust 4G infrastructure tend to fall towards the cheaper end of the table. This is due to the fact that mobile data plans have escalated far beyond the 1-10GB per month median, offering instead plans with caps in the hundreds of gigabytes, or even completely unlimited. The cost per gigabyte in these countries will tend therefore to be very low. India and Italy are good examples.
Heavy reliance: Countries with little to no fixed-line broadband availability therefore rely heavily on mobile data provision. In these cases, mobile data is the primary means the population has of getting online. With a saturated market and many competing providers, often accompanied by a low average wage, data pricing in such countries can be exceptionally cheap when compared globally.
Small consumption: Countries where, although mobile data is widely available and widely used, the basic and/or overburdened infrastructure dictates a limited-use culture. In such countries, SIMs tend to be relatively cheap but predominantly available loaded with very small data amounts. In such countries, amounts of 2-5MB and with single-day expiries are not uncommon. When multiplying such small quantities to figure out the cost of a gigabyte, then, such countries tended to find themselves at the expensive end of the table. Chad and Benin are examples of this archetype.
Wealthy economy: Wealthy nations tend to have good mobile infrastructure, decently-sized data caps and relatively healthy markets. Since populations can afford to pay more, and network infrastructure costs that much more to own and run, and provided they haven’t reached the ‘excellent infrastructure’ category where data limits are beyond normal usage or entirely unlimited, data pricing tends towards the global average. Good examples of this archetype would be the UK and Germany.