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 Q2 2017 onwards, 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.
In Q2 2018, the average monthly charge for residential 4G LTE services varied from $53.79 in Cyprus to $19.67 in Romania. Cyprus continues to offer the highest priced products since Q1 2017. Compared to Q1 2018, the lowest tariff dropped by 21% with Romania taking over Luxembourg in this respect this quarter.
In some instances, relatively low average monthly charge comes with high average data cap (Figure 2). For example, countries such as Finland, Denmark, 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).
Finland in particular stands out in this respect, as mobile operators in this country offer 4G LTE data volumes comparable to those used by many subscribers on fixed broadband packages. At the same time, the average monthly charge in Finland is $33.49 (slightly higher than $31.93 recorded in Q1 2018). Meanwhile, Switzerland and Austria offer high data allowances but are among the most expensive markets in terms of average monthly tariffs – $50.85 and $40.26 respectively. They do offer good value in terms of average cost per GB, however.
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.
Nevertheless, Figure 4 shows which countries are investing in higher speed and more advanced 4G networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. Denmark and Austria, 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 stands out as offering the best value for money given the average download speed and data allowance.
There will be exceptions at a country level but when comparing the markets of Eastern and Western Europe at a regional level, Western Europe comes out on top in terms of the average data allowance with 110GB per month, compared to 73GB in Eastern Europe. It has gone down in both regions, with 120GB and 96GB respectively recorded in Q1 2018. However, in Q2 2018, 4G LTE customers in Easter Europe were offered on average lower monthly charge at $32.60. In Western Europe, the same indicator was $36.09 (Figure 5). Compared to the previous quarter, the average monthly charge in both regions has gone down from $34.80 and $37.32 respectively.
Among the selected economies, there is a notable difference between the Netherlands and Sweden on one end of the spectrum and Germany and France on the other (Figure 6).
Consumers in the Netherlands and Sweden are offered higher average 4G data volumes but also pay more for their monthly contracts than their counterparts in the other countries. Meanwhile, Italian 4G subscribers get good value for money, paying the least – on average £22.12 per month – but getting an average data allowance of 43GB per month – higher than UK, France and Germany.
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 4G LTE tariffs in Q2 2018
The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (Italy) were more than ten times higher than those at the low end (Finland). Moreover, in Finland where customers paid from $7.69 PPP for unlimited data they were offered theoretical download speeds of up to 600Mbps, in Austria ($12.52) they were on 4G networks capable of up to 300Mbps, while in Croatia ($48.49) the advertised speed was up to 150Mbps.
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).
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 Switzerland for example is represented by high variance. At the other end of the scale countries like Romania, Italy 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, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org