4G LTE Tariffs in Europe: key trends in Q4 2018

Point Topic tracks changes in the 4G LTE tariffs provided by mobile operators across Europe

This overview presents the latest analysis of the 4G LTE tariffs for Q4 2018

We have compared the average monthly subscription charges and download speeds offered by mobile broadband providers across the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. All prices are quoted in US dollars at PPP (purchasing power parity) rates to allow for easier comparison.

Overall 4G LTE tariff trends

In Q4 2018, the average monthly charge for residential 4G LTE services varied from $52.82 (PPP) in Cyprus to $20.48 in Italy. Cyprus continued to offer the highest priced products since we started measuring them in Q1 2017.

Figure 1. Average residential 4G LTE monthly tariff in PPP$, Q4 2018

In some instances, a relatively low average monthly charge comes with high average data cap (Figure 2). For example, Switzerland, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark stand out as being at the high end of data allowances but at the low end of monthly charges, providing the best value for money to subscribers. This is reflected in the average cost per GB of data in these countries being among the lowest in Europe (Figure 3).

Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance, residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 2018

Finland stands out in terms of the highest average data allowance, as mobile operators in this country offer 4G LTE data volumes comparable to those used by many subscribers of fixed broadband packages.

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of data in PPP$, Q4 2018

One of the factors which complicates comparing mobile broadband services between countries and against fixed broadband services is the fact that some mobile operators do not report data speeds for their 4G LTE tariffs. Even when they do, the difference between the theoretical maximum bandwidths and the actual ones is much higher for mobile broadband compared to fixed.

Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G LTE services, Q4 2018

Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced 4G networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. Austria and Switzerland, among others, appear to offer relatively low bandwidth, along with being among the most generous markets in terms of data allowances. (It should be noted that Denmark is a special case in this context. The 71Mbps refers to the maximum download speed that the Danish operators are allowed to market after agreement with the consumer ombudsman. In fact, TDC’s theoretical maximum speed in 2018 was 413Mbps.) Latvia once again stands out as offering the best value for money given the average download speed and data allowance.

Regional and country benchmarks

Among the selected markets, there is a notable difference between Sweden and the other five countries in terms of the average data cap (Figure 5). While the mobile operators in this country offer consumers on average 88GB a month, out of the six it has the highest average monthly charge, having overtaken the Netherlands this quarter.

Figure 5. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services in six major European economies, Q4 2018

Having said that, the average cost per GB in Sweden is the lowest at $0.39 PPP, compared to $4.13 PPP in the Netherlands.

Figure 6. Average cost per GB in selected countries, Q4 2018 (in $PPP)

To compare the prices that residential customers would pay for unlimited monthly 4G LTE data in various European markets, we selected the countries which offered such tariffs in Q4 2018 (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 2018

The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (Croatia) were more than six times higher than those at the low end (Switzerland). However, when customers paid $50.13 PPP for unlimited data in Croatia, they were offered theoretical download speeds of up to 150Mbps, while in Switzerland they were charged $7.38 PPP for the advertised speed of up to 2Mbps.

Country ranking

Comparing countries by using the average cost of mobile broadband subscriptions is a straightforward idea but the variation in entry level versus median and average costs can be significant. To help provide an easy way of comparing directly we have taken the $PPP data on entry level, median and average tariffs, produced rankings and then compared the variance (Table 1).

Table 1. Country scorecard by residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 2018

We have included a ‘variance’ column to indicate how the different ranks for the different metrics are spread.  We see that the wide spread in Ireland, Austria and Norway for example is represented by high variance.  At the other end of the scale countries like Romania, Spain or Latvia rank rather consistently.

Why such marked differences between countries?

There is no simple clear-cut explanation as many factors come into play. The length of time after the 4G networks were launched, 4G service take-up, the market shares of ‘standalone’ 4G and of multi-play bundles, the extent of competition from fixed broadband services with comparable bandwidth, the availability and the cost of 4G spectrum, the regulatory pressures to offer 4G services in remote and rural areas as a priority, the demographic characteristics and life-styles of the users and the cord-cutting tendencies will all have influenced the 4G offerings available in different European markets. A further statistical modelling would provide more insight into these differences.


What we measure

This analysis is based on more than 800 tariffs from all major mobile broadband providers from the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. In total, we provide data on 88 operators from 30 countries. We track a representative sample of tariffs offered by each operator, making sure we include the top end, the entry level and the medium level tariffs, which results in a broad range of prices and data allowances.

We use this data to report on pan-European trends in tariffs and bandwidths offered. We also report on regional trends and variations across countries. The data can be used to track changes in the tariffs offered by individual operators as well.

Technologies

We track mobile broadband tariffs provided over 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced technologies. For the sake of brevity, we are referring to both of them as ‘4G LTE’ or sometimes ‘4G’.

Standalone and bundled

We record 4G LTE and LTE Advanced tariffs which are offered as SIM only data only, some of which come with a device (a 4G modem). From Q2 2017 onwards we do not track tariffs bundled with tablets. However, we do record multi-play service bundles (mobile broadband plus TV, fixed broadband and/or voice). From this quarter, they are not included in this analysis, only in the tariff database. We track monthly tariffs rather than daily, weekly or pay as you go, and exclude tariffs offered as part of the smartphone purchase.

Residential and business

We record both business and residential mobile broadband tariffs. The analysis in this report is based on residential tariffs.

Currency

To allow for comparison between countries with different living standards, this report refers to the tariffs in $ PPP (purchasing power parity).  The data on PPP conversion rates is provided by the World Bank. The tariffs in our database are also available in local currencies, USD, EUR and GBP.

Notes on methodology

In order to represent the tariffs we collate more efficiently, we have consolidated the tariff benchmark spreadsheets into a single file.  This is available to subscribers to the Mobile Broadband Tariffs service – click here to access the full file.

If there is a particular element that you cannot find, and you wish to have available please contact us on info@point-topic.com.

Coverage and methodology

A full set of mobile broadband tariff data is available for download as part of Point Topic’s Mobile Operator Tariffs Service. The data set contains the most up-to-date end of quarter tariff information including such details as monthly rental, connection speed, data allowance, equipment costs, service features and special offers.

Price comparison issues

This analysis is intended as a general indicator of the trends in 4G LTE service pricing across Europe. There are several additional variables that complicate the process of making a direct comparison of mobile broadband tariffs. They need to be taken into account when making a more in-depth analysis:

  • Device charges: Some 4G LTE monthly tariffs include all charges for devices, for example LTE routers or dongles, whereas others come with additional one-off (upfront) costs which can be substantial. We include monthly device charges in the total monthly subscription, and it is this figure that is used in the analysis. One-off charges are more difficult to compare as they vary depending on the device and the monthly charge a user is prepared to pay.
  • Bundling: Increasingly, mobile operators are entering the multi-play arena by bundling their mobile broadband services with voice services, fixed broadband and TV. At the moment, the Mobile Broadband Tariffs service provides access to a sample of multi-play bundles from Europe and beyond. Note: although 4G LTE tariffs which come with a device may be regarded as bundles, we refer to them as standalone mobile broadband services as the device such as a modem is regarded as ‘equipment’, in line with our fixed broadband tariff methodology. The analysis presented in the current report only refers to ‘standalone mobile broadband’ tariffs.
  • Data allowances: Some operators offer entry level services with very low data caps. From
    Q1 2017, the minimum data allowance we include is 1GB per month. In most cases, however, these limits are generous enough for a typical user and, in some cases, even comparable to those offered by fixed broadband providers. An increasing number of tariffs are offered with ‘unlimited’ data usage. To make it possible to include these tariffs in our calculations, we assigned 600GB per month to the unlimited data tariffs.
  • Downstream and upstream speeds: Some operators do not report mobile broadband speeds, not least because they are so variable. Others do, and where this is the case we record the theoretical maximum speed. In reality, the actual average speed can be lower up to 10 times or more. This should be taken into account when comparing 4G LTE services with fixed broadband, for example.

In other words, we are trying to be very clear about what we are measuring, analysing and reporting. One could raise questions with regards to any section of this analysis.  Should we include all tariffs – those coming with smartphones, other devices and SIM only ones – in cross country comparisons?  Do we look at the range of services on offer or do we pick the single entry level tariff from the most popular provider?

As ever the answer is to pick whatever best suits your needs.  Users are urged to be careful with all outputs and read the titles and descriptions to extract the best understanding.


Get access to the full data

Access to the full version of this report, including the analysis of business tariffs, and our latest tariff database featuring more than 800 4G LTE and LTE Advanced services from 30 European countries are available to subscribers of Point Topic’s Mobile Broadband Tariffs service. To find out more, please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail simona@point-topic.com

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