Worldwide Mobile Data Costs Ranked: India is no longer a mobile data wonderland

Dijana Matošević - 28/05/2021 | 3 min read

Compact Maps WEB Maps General, the British company specializing in transparent broadband deals comparison, released its 2021 Worldwide mobile data pricing report based on over 6,000 collected mobile data plans. The summarized results showcase the average cost of 1 gigabyte.

Israel is the new leader in the world of affordable mobile data plans.

With $0.05 per GB, Israel holds the cheapest mobile data plans worldwide, and Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, and Italy closely follow. The median price worldwide is $2.2 per gigabyte.

The prices of mobile data plans in Israel have been on a downwards path for several years now due to the high coverage of LTE services and lately due to operators expanding their 5G offerings.

Israel and Italy, closely followed by France, also have the most affordable pricing measured relative to the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Countries on the interactive map are color-coded by the average price of 1 GB of mobile data. To take into account the economic strength and living standards, switch the view to examine the prices scaled with the country's' GDP per capita.

India is no longer a mobile data wonderland

However, the biggest news is that India no longer holds the number one position in the cheapest mobile data plans. Compared to 2019, the average cost of mobile data per gigabyte in India soared from $0.09 to $0.68, leaving India in the 28th position overall.

The Jio Effect

Jio, a young telecom operator part of Reliance Industries Limited, disrupted the Indian market with dirt-cheap high-speed mobile data plans. It launched in 2016 with an aggressive campaign offering free trials and monthly plans starting below $1 and managed to gain 100 million customers in just 6 months. Today 2021, Jio is the largest Indian telecom operator with a 35% market share.

Jio's price dumping caused the mobile plans in India to hit rock bottom prices and consequentially drove several major telecom companies out of business. Dozens of telecom companies eventually consolidated into only four.

Such low tariffs were a subject of numerous debates for years, and many considered them as the result of the hyper-competition and therefore not sustainable on the long term. The general opinion was that the operators would eventually need to review their pricing to continue investments in the network coverage and quality.

Finally, in the September of 2019, the Supreme court ruled out alterations in the definition of the adjusted gross revenue. Because the annual telecom license and spectrum usage charges are defined as a percentage of AGR, the Supreme court ruling effectively directed the telecoms to pay billions in fees, interests, and penalties. The ruling caused three major providers to announce raising tariffs by 20 to 30 percent and finally led to the mobile data price escalation we observe today.

The relative affordability of mobile data

Although mobile data plans in Western Europe are amongst the most expensive ones, when scaled with the GDP per capita, Western European countries have the most affordable internet - only 0.06‰ of GDP per capita.

Adding the GDP into the comparison, Israel, Italy, and France have the most affordable mobile data plans worldwide - below 0.02‰ of GDP per capita.

Australia and Singapore are the only non-European countries in the top 10 countries with the most affordable mobile data plans.

In West and Central Europe, Czech Republic stands out with the most unaffordable mobile data plans. Most analysts blame the lack of competition and cartel-like oligopoly between operators for this.

Compared to the rest of Europe, relative prices are on average 3 times higher in South-European countries.

The highest mobile data prices are in Sub-Saharan Africa

Smartphone ownership is still considered a luxury in many Sub-Saharan countries, and only a smaller percentage of the population owns one. Therefore the operators must compensate the network investment and maintenance with higher prices. Moreover, mobile plans often offer smaller data packages, making the analyzed average per GB prices sky-high.

The Future

For sure, the automotive industry is one of the interested parties in further developing mobile data pricing and infrastructure. Besides the apparent contenders of autonomous, connected, and electric vehicles, infotainment systems, companion navigational services like real-time traffic management, augmented reality extremely rely on data accessibility and affordability. Mobile data availability is to be or not to be question in introducing various new features.

Telecom operators are facing the same question - how fast and how big should they invest in building their 5G networks. The modern world applications and revenue generation of 5G are still uncertain. For example, with the Supreme Court's final strike on the already battered Indian telecom operators, and the 2020 pandemic, it is unsure how the Indian telecom market will approach investing in the 5G network.

How it's made?

The above interactive visualization has been made using Mireo Compact Maps location platform. Mireo Compact Maps is a self-hosted and high-performant location platform designed to provide professional-level Map APIs. You can find more inspiring suggestions on how to add value to your visualizations on maps.

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