Mobile Broadband Tariff Report

Q2 2021

Point Topic tracks changes in the 4G LTE / LTE Advanced and 5G tariffs provided by mobile operators across Europe. This report presents the latest tariff benchmarks as of the end of June 2021.

1 Introduction

Point Topic tracks changes in the 4G LTE / LTE Advanced and 5G tariffs provided by mobile operators across Europe. This report presents the latest tariff benchmarks as of the end of June 2021.

The data is collated within Point Topic’s Mobile Broadband Tariffs subscription service. Our analysts review and interpret the data to show pricing trends by region and country.

We also provide access to the complete tariff dataset which our customers can use to perform their own analysis.

2 What we measure

This analysis is based on more than 900 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.

Technologies

We track mobile broadband tariffs provided over 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced technologies. From Q2 2019, we also started including 5G tariffs in our analysis. In Q4 2020 the dataset includes 178 5G tariffs from 12 countries. Also, from Q4 2020, we provide separate analyses of 4G and 5G tariffs.

Standalone and bundled

We record 4G and 5G tariffs which are offered as SIM only data only, some of which come with a device (a modem, router or equivalent). 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). They are not included in this analysis, only in the tariff database. We track contract based monthly tariffs rather than daily, weekly or pay as you go (prepaid), and exclude tariffs offered as part of the smartphone purchase.

Residential and business

We record both business and residential mobile broadband tariffs. The analysis in this report is based on residential tariffs.

Currency

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.

3 Notes on methodology

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 or have any questions please contact us on [email protected]

Coverage and methodology

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.

Price comparison issues

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:

  • Device charges: Some 4G/5G monthly tariffs include all charges for devices, for example routers or dongles, whereas others come with additional one-off (upfront) costs which can be substantial. We include monthly device charges in the total monthly subscription, and it is this figure that is used in the analysis. One-off charges are more difficult to compare as they vary depending on the device and the monthly charge a user is prepared to pay.
  • Bundling: Increasingly, mobile operators are entering the multi-play arena by bundling their mobile broadband services with voice services, fixed broadband and TV. At the moment, the Mobile Broadband Tariffs service provides access to a sample of multi-play bundles from Europe and beyond. Note: although 4G/5G tariffs which come with a device may be regarded as bundles, we refer to them as standalone mobile broadband services as the device such as a modem is regarded as ‘equipment’, in line with our fixed broadband tariff methodology. The analysis presented in the current report only refers to ‘standalone mobile broadband’ tariffs.
  • Data allowances: Some operators offer entry level services with very low data caps. From
    Q1 2017, the minimum data allowance we include is 1GB per month. In most cases, however, these limits are generous enough for a typical user and, in some cases, even comparable to those offered by fixed broadband providers. An increasing number of tariffs are offered with ‘unlimited’ data usage. To make it possible to include these tariffs in our calculations, we assigned 600GB per month to the unlimited data tariffs.
  • Downstream and upstream speeds: Some operators do not report mobile broadband speeds, not least because they are so variable. Others do, and where this is the case we record the theoretical maximum speed. In reality, the actual average speed can be lower up to 10 times, or more. This should be taken into account when comparing 4G/5G services with fixed broadband, for example. (Note: From Q2 2019, the minimum download speed we include is 10Mbps.)

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.

4 Mobile broadband tariffs and bandwidths in Europe: an overview

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 tariffs and those bundled with a router. No tariffs bundled with other devices such as tablets or smartphones are included. We made this decision to make the analysis more comparable with fixed broadband services.

Overall 4G and 5G tariff trends

4G tariffs

In Q2 2021, the average monthly charge for residential 4G data services varied from $78 (PPP) in Greece to $20 (PPP) in Spain. In 15 out of 30 countries in our sample, this measure was higher than the European average of $37 (PPP). The average itself has gone slightly from $35 (PPP) six months ago.

Figure 1. Average residential 4G data monthly tariff in PPP$, Q2 2021

In some markets, a relatively low average monthly subscription comes with high average data cap (Figure 2). For example, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands are 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).

 

Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance in Gigabytes, residential 4G tariffs, Q2 2021

Finland stands out in terms of the highest average data allowance, as all mobile operators in this country offer unlimited 4G data. This places mobile broadband services in the country in direct competition with fixed broadband.

Figure 3. Average cost per GB of 4G data in PPP$, Q2 2021

One of the factors which complicates comparing mobile broadband with fixed broadband services is the fact that some mobile operators do not report bandwidth on their tariffs. Even when they do, the difference between the theoretical maximum bandwidths and the actual ones tends to be higher for mobile broadband compared to fixed. In addition, mobile broadband speeds can fluctuate significantly from one minute to the next due to various factors.

Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G services, Q2 2021

Nevertheless, Figure 4 gives an idea of the countries where operators are investing in more spectrum, bandwidth and more advanced networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. Latvia is leading the pack with an average downstream speed of 314Mbps, while its operators also offer significant data allowances (315GB on average). Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Slovakia and Germany follow closely, though among these countries average data caps are above the European average only in Italy and Sweden. Denmark and Austria, among others, offer relatively low bandwidth but they are among the most generous markets in terms of average data allowances, with 319GB and 474GB respectively[1].

5G tariffs

As there is still a limited number of 5G services in European markets, the overview below takes into account both residential and business tariffs. Due to the small sample size, our analysis of 5G tariffs is limited at this stage and only reflects some general trends.

At the end of June 2021, the average monthly subscription for data-only 5G services in our sample varied from $17 (PPP) in Poland to $92 (PPP) in Austria. In all countries except Poland, 5G tariffs were higher than 4G, as one would expect given typically higher bandwidth and lower latency on 5G. The differences were especially large in Austria, France, Slovenia, Denmark and Ireland.

Figure 5. Average monthly 5G and 4G data tariffs in PPP$, Q2 2021

Figure 6. Average monthly data allowance in Gigabytes, 5G data tariffs, Q2 2021

The average data allowance on 5G tariffs varied from 30GB in the Poland to 750GB in Denmark. The latter, along with Austria, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland were at the high end of data included in 5G subscriptions. While consumers these countries were offered similarly high 5G data caps, Austrians paid on average more than twice than the Finns and the Swiss for their 5G services, despite the significantly lower average downstream speed available in Austria compared to Finland and Switzerland (Figure 7).

 

Figure 7. Average theoretical downstream speed on 5G data services, Q2 2021

Switzerland leads the 5G downstream bandwidth league table as one of its operators, Sunrise, has launched an up to 2Gbps 5G service. Mobile operators from all countries in our sample were offering average theoretical 5G speeds which are higher than those on 4G. At the end of June 2021, the European average speed on 5G was 597Mbps compared to 183Mbps on 4G.

 

4.2 Regional and country benchmarks

The data will vary at a country level but when comparing the markets of Central & Eastern and Western Europe at a regional level, Western Europe offered the average 4G data allowance at 207GB compared to 155GB in CEE (Central & Eastern Europe) in Q2 2021. It went up in both regions, compared to Q4 2020 but much more so in Western Europe.

In Q2 2021, customers in Western Europe were charged a marginally lower average monthly subscription at $37.1 PPP. In CEE, the same indicator was $38.7 PPP (Figure 8). Given the lower average data cap, the average cost per GB in CEE was higher and stood at $0.25 PPP compared to $0.18 in Western Europe. On the other hand, CEE led in terms of downstream speeds on 4G connections with an average 215Mbps compared to 154Mbps in Western Europe.

 

Figure 8. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G services, Q2 2021

Among the selected six mature markets, the Netherlands stood out in terms of the average data allowance and Germany in terms of the lowest average monthly charge (Figure 9).

Figure 9. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G services in six major European economies, Q2 2021

 

Mobile operators in the Netherlands offer consumers on average 301GB of 4G data a month (up from 202GB  six months ago), while Italy follows with 215GB average allowance, up from 158GB. The Netherlands is the second cheapest market in terms of the average monthly subscription at $32.01 PPP with only Germany charging less at $26.8 PPP. Given the generous average data cap, the Netherlands has the lowest average cost per GB out of the six markets. It is $0.11 PPP, compared to $0.97 PPP in Germany (Figure 10).

 


Figure 10. Average data and cost of 4G services in selected countries, Q2 2021 (in $PPP)
 

 

To compare the prices that residential customers pay for unlimited monthly 4G data in various European markets, we selected the countries which offered such tariffs in Q2 2021 (Figure 11).

Figure 11. Entry level monthly charge for unlimited data on residential 4G tariffs, Q2 2021

 

The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (Portugal) were more than 5 times higher than those at the low end (Italy). Of course, in addition to data allowance, there will be other features of the entry level tariff plans that will influence the cost.

4.3 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 tariffs, Q2 2021


For the full country ranking and report please email [email protected]

This report is taken from Point Topic’s Mobile Broadband Tariffs Service.  Click here to learn more.