4G LTE Tariffs in Europe: key trends in Q4 2016

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 the end of December 2016

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 monthly 4G LTE tariffs that offer at least 1GB data allowance. We also assigned 600GB data cap to ‘unlimited’ data tariffs to be able to include them in our calculations.

Residential 4G LTE tariffs

In Q4 2016, the average monthly charge for residential 4G LTE services varied from $59 in Malta to $25 in Belgium.

Monthly residential

Figure 1. Average residential 4G LTE monthly tariff in PPP$, Q4 2016

In some cases, the lower average monthly charge reflects the lower average usage allowance, and vice versa (Figure 2). However, countries such as Switzerland and Denmark stand out as being on 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).

Data residential

Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance, residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 2016

One could argue that 4G LTE subscribers in Switzerland and Denmark as well as Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Austria and especially Finland are offered monthly data volumes comparable to those used by an average subscriber of a fixed broadband package.

Cost per GB residential

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of data in PPP$, Q4 2016

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 within the same area of town.

Speed residential

Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G LTE services, Q4 2016

Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced 4G networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. The more recent and relatively less developed EU countries appear to be at the forefront in this respect, not least because later entrants tend to join technological trends at more advanced stages compared to the more established counterparts.

Country benchmarks

Among the strongest Western economies, there is a stark contrast between, for example, Sweden and the other selected five countries when it comes to average 4G data volumes offered to residential customers (Figure 5).

Country benchmarks

Figure 5. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services in six major European economies, Q4 2016

Digging a little deeper, we were curious to find out what an average residential customer would pay for unlimited monthly 4G LTE data in various European markets (Figure 6). For this comparison, we selected the countries which offered such 4G LTE tariffs. We excluded the tariffs which come with a tablet as the monthly device cost would distort the picture.

In Q4 2106, the entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum were twice as high as those at the low end. The entry level tariff with unlimited 4G data in Austria was $22.6 PPP while in Poland it was $45.4 PPP.

Charge for unlimited data

Figure 6. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 2016 (tariffs with tablets excluded)

Accordingly, the price differential for 100GB of data was three to one ($93.8 PPP in Czech Republic as opposed to $27 PPP in Lithuania) (Figure 7). Thus, whereas the unlimited data and 100GB residential 4G tariffs compared favourably to fixed broadband tariffs in the least expensive countries, residents with high data appetite in the most expensive markets were better off sticking to fixed broadband services where they were available.

Charge for 100GB

Figure 7. Entry level monthly charge for 100GB of data on residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q4 3016 (tariffs with tablets excluded)

In Q4 2016, Austria and Finland appeared to be the best countries for getting a residential 4G LTE subscription. The mobile operators in these two countries offered unlimited 4G data tariffs (we coded them as 600GB a month) for the median European monthly charge of $33.5 (PPP) (Figure 8). The best data offers consumers could get for a similar monthly price in other countries were 70GB in Latvia, 20GB in France and Ireland 16GB in UK, and only 2GB in Cyprus, to mention a few. In Q4 2016, the number of mobile operators who offered unlimited 4G data plans has increased further in response to the ever-increasing demand from the market.

Median data caps

Figure 8. 4G LTE data allowance a residential customer can get for the median monthly charge (SIM only and modem tariffs)

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).

Country scorecard

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 Croatia for example is represented by high variance.  At the other end of the variance scale countries like Italy or Lithuania rank rather consistently.

Get access to the full data

Access to the full version of the this report, including the analysis of business tariffs, and our latest tariff database featuring more than 2,000 mobile broadband 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