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.
In Q4 2019, the average monthly charge for residential 4G/5G data services varied from $51.57 (PPP) in Cyprus to $18.94 (PPP) in Spain.
In some instances, a relatively low average monthly charge comes with high average data cap (Figure 2). For example, this quarter Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands 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). In Slovakia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece, on the other hand users pay a high monthly price for very low data allowance.
Finland stands out in terms of the highest average data allowance, as all mobile operators in this country offer unlimited 4G/5G data volumes, placing their mobile broadband services in direct competition with fixed broadband.
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 speeds for their 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.
Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced 4G networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology as well as those which are rolling out 5G networks. For example, Switzerland was among countries who offered lowest average downstream speeds in Q1 2019, however, after introducing 5G services it is in the second position with a downstream speed average of 760Mbps and the top 5G speed of 2Gbps. The average speed in Italy also increased significantly after the 5G launch. The country now offers the highest average downstream speed of 1Gbps having overtaken Switzerland this quarter. Denmark and Austria, among others, appear to offer relatively low bandwidth, while 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.
There will be exceptions at a country level but when comparing the markets of Central & Eastern and Western Europe at a regional level, Western Europe came out on top in terms of the average data allowance with 146 GB per month, compared to 87.5 GB in Central & Eastern Europe. In terms of downstream speeds, both regions recorded the same 235Mbps average speeds, however, it was a 28 per cent increase for Western Europe compared to Q3 2019. Customers in Western Europe were also offered on average a slightly lower monthly charge at $32.37 PPP. In Central & Eastern Europe, the same indicator was $34.27 PPP, so the difference was marginal (Figure 5). However, the average cost per GB in Central & Eastern Europe was significantly higher at $0.39 PPP, compared to $0.22 PPP in Western European markets.
Among the selected six mature markets, the Netherlands stands out in terms of the top average data cap and Italy in terms of the lowest average monthly charge. (Figure 6).
The mobile operators in the Netherlands offer consumers an average monthly data allowance of 123GB while Sweden follows with 96GB a month. For several quarters in a row the Netherlands offered the highest average monthly charge among the selected six markets but in Q3 2019 the prices dropped significantly, and the country is now the second cheapest with only Italy offering a lower average monthly subscription of $18.99. The Netherlands offers the lowest average cost per GB, currently standing at $0.20 PPP, compared to $3.36 PPP in Germany (Figure 7).
To compare the prices that residential customers pay for unlimited monthly 4G/5G data in various European markets, we selected the countries which offered such tariffs in Q4 2019 (Figure 8).
The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (United Kingdom) were nearly five times higher than those at the low end (Switzerland). However, when customers paid $70.10 PPP for unlimited data in United Kingdom, they were purchasing 4G services with speeds up to 300Mbps, while in Switzerland in this case they were charged $15.57 (PPP) for the advertised 4G speed of up to 10Mbps.
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/5G tariffs, Q4 2019
We have included a ‘variance’ column to indicate how different ranks for the different metrics are spread. We see that the wide spread in Austria, Ireland and Spain for example is represented by high variance. At the other end of the scale countries like Poland, Sweden or Luxembourg rank rather consistently.
There is no simple clear-cut explanation as many factors come into play. The length of time after the 4G/5G networks were launched, service take-up, the market shares of ‘standalone’ and of multi-play bundles, the extent of competition from fixed broadband services with comparable bandwidth, the availability and the cost of 4G/5G 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 and 5G offerings available in different European markets. A further statistical modelling would provide more insight into these differences.
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.
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’. From Q2 2019, a small number of 5G tariffs are included in our analysis. Countries which offered 5G commercially at the time of our quarterly data collection are marked with an asterisk (*).
We record 4G / 5G tariffs which are offered as SIM only data only, some of which come with a device (a 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.
We record both business and residential mobile broadband tariffs. The analysis in this report is based on residential tariffs.
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.
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 [email protected]
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.
This analysis is intended as a general indicator of the trends in 4G/5G 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:
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.
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 [email protected]