While South African mobile operators are making moves to reduce data prices, the country still ranks among the bottom half of countries with the world’s most expensive mobile data prices.
According to the Cable.co.uk’s latest Worldwide Mobile Data Pricing 2021 report, which measures the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in 230 countries, SA ranks 136th.
Data from 6 148 mobile data plans in 230 countries were gathered and analysed by Cable.co.uk between 8 December 2020 and 25 February 2021.
The report notes the average price of 1GB of mobile data in SA is $2.67 (R39), the most expensive price is $34.95 (R509) and the cheapest is $0.12 (R1.75).
The global average is $4.07 (R59).
Cable.co.uk says to come up with these findings, it measured 60 mobile data plans in SA with the sample data collected between December and February.
The report comes as all of SA’s leading mobile operators recently slashed data prices.
Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C dropped their data prices, saying the reduced rates will drive digital transformation in response to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mobile data prices in SA are set to go down even further when telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) auctions the much-needed spectrum for which the operators have been waiting for over a decade.
It was ICASA’s intention to auction the spectrum by 31 March but this has been delayed after mobile operators such as Telkom and MTN challenged the legality of the process at the courts.
Looking at the rest of Africa, according to the report, all but one of the seven North African countries are in the cheapest half of the table.
It notes Algeria is the cheapest in North Africa at $0.51, and the most expensive in the region, Mauritania ($5.56), is the only country to exceed the global average of $4.07.
Northern Africa is the cheapest overall region in the world, says Cable.co.uk.
It adds that Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, has just one country among the top 10 cheapest in the world – Sudan, in fifth place overall at $0.27.
The region also has six out of the 10 most expensive countries in the world, with Equatorial Guinea the most expensive in the world ($49.67), joined by Saint Helena ($39.87), São Tomé and Príncipe ($30.97), Malawi ($25.46) and Chad ($23.33) at the bottom of the table.
The report points out that Israel is home to the cheapest mobile data plans in the world, with 1GB of data costing an average of just $0.05.
On the other hand, the most expensive place in the world to buy mobile data is Equatorial Guinea, where the average cost of 1GB is $49.67 – nearly a thousand times the cost of mobile data in Israel.
Kyrgyzstan is a close second to Israel with 1GB costing $0.15 on average. It’s followed by Fiji ($0.19) in third place.
The cheapest mobile data in Western Europe is in Italy in fourth place overall, where the average price of 1GB is $0.27. France ($0.41) is the second cheapest in Western Europe, followed by San Marino ($0.43) and Denmark ($0.79).
The UK ($1.42) is the 11th cheapest in Western Europe and 78th cheapest in the world.
Commenting on the worldwide rankings, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, says many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories.
“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.
“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. People are often buying data packages of just a 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.”