Mobile broadband, a potentially transformational technology, can be a pricey proposition in emerging markets.
Worldwide, mobile data in 2013 was about seven times more affordable in the developed world for a prepaid plan, and almost ten times more affordable for a postpaid plan, according to the latest figures from UN telecoms agency, the ITU.
While competition and economies of scale have dramatically reduced the cost of fixed line and voice services in growth markets, these forces tend to be less pronounced for mobile broadband, which is at an earlier stage of development.
Nonetheless, all this is changing, with the ITU’s data – published last year in its Measuring The Information Society Report – representing a historical snapshot of a dynamic marketplace.
The buildout of WiFi is also broadening mobile internet access, especially as more people buy smartphones without a data plan.
At the same time, there is innovation in mobile broadband pricing, as operators devise new offers to attract new consumers.
This is in marked contrast to the fixed broadband market, where price structures are fairly homogenous across countries, and stable in time.
Postpaid plans are also more likely to be bundled with voice minutes and SMS, distorting direct comparisons, although these plans are more common in the developed world.
Our slideshow has more, comparing relative pricing as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) per capita and by purchasing power parity (PPP), as well as by US dollars.