4G LTE Tariffs in Europe: key trends in Q3 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 Q3 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 Q3 2018, the average monthly charge for residential 4G LTE services varied from $56.40 (PPP) in Cyprus to $19.60 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$, Q3 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 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).

Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance, residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q3 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. In Q3 2018, the average monthly charge for a mobile broadband data tariff in Finland was $38.43 compared to $59.54 in the case of fixed broadband, though the latter product may include additional services such as TV or fixed line.

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of data in PPP$, Q3 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, Q3 2018

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.

Regional and country benchmarks

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 134GB per month, compared to 87GB in Eastern Europe. Compared to the previous quarter, the average data allowance in both regions has gone up from 110GB and 73GB respectively. In Q3 2018, 4G LTE customers in Easter Europe were offered on average lower monthly charge at $32.54. In Western Europe, the same indicator was $32.71, so the difference was very marginal (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services, Q3 2018

Among the selected markets, there is a notable difference between and the other five countries in terms of the average data cap (Figure 6). While the mobile operators in this country offer consumers on average 88GB a month, out of the six it is the second most expensive market following the Netherlands.

Figure 6. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G LTE services in six major European economies, Q3 2018

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 Q3 2018 (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G LTE tariffs, Q3 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 $48.49 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, Q3 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, Italy, Spain or Croatia 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.

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