4G LTE Tariffs in Europe: key trends in Q2 2017

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

This overview presents the latest 4G LTE tariff benchmarks as of June 2017

27 October 2017

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.

Note: from this quarter, we only include SIM only data only 4G LTE tariffs and those bundled with a modem. No tariffs bundled with other devices such as tablets or smartphones are included. We made this decision to make this analysis more comparable with fixed broadband services which are not normally bundled with PCs and laptops.

1.1 Overall trends of 4G LTE tariffs

In Q2 2017, the average monthly charge for residential 4G LTE services varied from $54 in Cyprus to $22 in Italy.

Average monthly 4G LTE tariff

Figure 1. Average residential 4G LTE monthly tariff in PPP$, Q2 2017

In some cases, the lower average monthly charge reflects the lower average usage allowance, and vice versa (Figure 2). However, in many cases high average data cap comes with the average monthly price on the lower to medium end of the spectrum. For example, countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia stand out as being at the high end of data allowances and the low end of monthly charges, in other words 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). At the same time, 4G subscribers in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany and Slovakia for example are paying the highest monthly charges for minimal data caps.

Average monthly data allowance

Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance, residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q2 2017

It could be argued that 4G LTE subscribers in Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia are offered monthly data volumes comparable to those used by many a subscriber of a fixed broadband package.

Average cost per GB of data

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of data in PPP$, Q2 2017

Another aspect 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 with their specific 4G LTE tariffs. Even when they do, the variability between the theoretical maximum bandwidths and the actual ones is much higher in the case of mobile broadband as opposed to fixed broadband. The actual attainable speeds on 4G LTE networks also vary much more depending on location, even on the same street and even within a building.

Average Downstream Spead

Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G LTE services, Q2 2017

Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced 4G networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. 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 spring 2017 was 412Mbps, and 900Mbps around Tivoli in Copenhagen.

1.2 Regional and country benchmarks

There will be exceptions at a country level but when comparing the economies of Eastern and Western Europe in a more generalised fashion, Western Europe comes out on top both in terms of the average data allowance and average monthly tariff on 4G LTE networks.

Residential 4G LTE tariff benchmarks

Figure 5. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services, Q2 2017

While many Eastern European operators tend to offer theoretical 4G LTE data speeds which are among the highest in Europe, their Western European counterparts provide better value for money to residential subscribers (Figure 5). With many of them having launched 4G networks a while ago, the economies of scale have kicked in, allowing to offer consumers more data for a similar average charge.

Among the strongest Western economies, there is a stark contrast between, Italy and the other selected five countries when it comes to average 4G data volumes offered to residential customers (Figure 6). Consumers in Italy also pay significantly less than their counterparts in the other countries.

Residential 4G LTE tariff benchmarks2

Figure 6. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services in six major European economies, Q2 2017

To compare what price on average a residential customer would pay for unlimited monthly 4G LTE data in various European markets, we selected the countries which offered such 4G LTE tariffs.

Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data

Figure 7. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q2 2017

The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum were more than tenfold as high as those at the low end. It should be noted though that the entry level tariff with unlimited 4G data in Switzerland came with only up to 2Mbps download speed. In Austria where customers paid from $13 PPP for unlimited data the service offered theoretical download speeds of 20Mbps, in Finland it came with up to 50Mbps speeds, while in Estonia the speeds were up to 375Mbps and in the Netherlands up to 120Mbps. However, the average monthly cost the Dutch paid for up to 120Mbps was $62 PPP compared to the Lithuanians who paid $38 PPP for up to 200Mbps speeds.

1.3 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, Q2 2017


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 Spain and Germany for example is represented by high variance.  At the other end of the variance scale countries like The Netherlands or Lithuania 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, their 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 may provide more insight into these complex differences.

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