The cost of 1GB of data from 5,603 mobile data plans in 237 countries has been gathered and analysed by Cable.co.uk between 5 July 2023 and 6 September 2023 and it turns out that Israel is home to the cheapest mobile data plans in the world, with 1GB of data costing an average of just $0.02.
According to the study, the most expensive place in the world to buy mobile data is Zimbabwe, where the average cost of 1GB is $43.75 – more than 2000-times the cost of mobile data in Israel. Italy is second-cheapest, with 1GB costing $0.085 on average. It’s followed by Fiji ($0.088) in third place.
Check out the interactive version of this map here
Israel comes out cheapest as, with three-quarters of Israelis owning a smartphone, the country boasts a higher smartphone market penetration than theUS and has multiple providers offering huge data allowances with extensive 4G LTE and 5G network coverage.
Italy meanwhile has a highly competitive market, populated by a dozen or so providers that collectively offer some of the cheapest data in the world. 5G is now available to around 95% of the population, alongside ubiquitous 4G.
Despite being a remote island nation, Fiji has two mobile networks, both of which provide 4G and growing 5G coverage across the island, along with a broad range of large data deals.
Interestingly, Italy’s tiny neighbour San Marino, which is fourth cheapest, was the first European state to have a 5G network, established by Italian network TIM. San Marino benefits from 100% 5G coverage.
At the other end of the scale, the five most expensive countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are Zimbabwe ($43.75), the Falkland Islands ($40.58), Saint Helena ($40.13), South Sudan ($23.70) and Tokelau ($17.24). The similarities between these five nations are both striking and obvious. Three of the five are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and three of five are island nations. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fourth-most expensive region in the world for mobile data generally, while island nations also tend to be among the most expensive.
Four main archetypes
Researchers uncovered four main country archetypes that go the greatest distance to explaining the expense, or lack of, mobile data across the globe. Note that many countries will be formed of a mixture of two or more of these.
Excellent infrastructure: Countries with long-established, ubiquitous 4G or new 5G infrastructure tend to fall towards the cheaper end of the table. This is due to the fact that their mobile data plans tend to offer considerably more data than the global median, caps usually in the hundreds of gigabytes, or even completely unlimited. The cost per gigabyte in these countries will tend therefore to be very low.
Heavy reliance: Countries with little to no fixed-line broadband availability therefore rely heavily on mobile data provision. In these cases, mobile data is the primary means the population has of getting online, and adoption is often near-ubiquitous. With a saturated market and many competing providers, often accompanied by a low average wage, data pricing in such countries can be exceptionally cheap when compared globally.
Small consumption: Countries where, although mobile data is widely available and widely used, the basic and/or overburdened infrastructure dictates a limited-use culture. In countries such as these, SIMs tend to be relatively cheap but predominantly available loaded with very small data amounts. In such countries, amounts of 2-5MB and with single-day expiries are not uncommon. When multiplying such small quantities to figure out the cost of a gigabyte, then, such countries tended to find themselves at the most expensive end of the table.
Wealthy economy: Wealthy nations tend to have good mobile infrastructure, decently-sized data caps and relatively healthy markets. Since populations can afford to pay more, and network infrastructure costs that much more to own and run, and provided they haven’t reached the ‘excellent infrastructure’ category where data limits are beyond normal usage or entirely unlimited, data pricing tends towards the global average.
In previous reports, Cable.co.uk analysed more than 1.3 billion broadband speed tests to rank 224 countries by average internet speed, and revealed the cost of getting online in 219 countries. Cable.co.uk has also analysed the cost of electricity tariffs in 230 countries back in 2021. Data was also gathered in 2020 to better understand the effect of Covid lockdown periods on global network speeds.