Worldwide mobile data pricing 2021

The cost of 1GB of mobile data in 230 countries

A global league table of mobile data costs. The average cost of one gigabyte (1GB) was then calculated and compared from over 6,000 mobile data plans in 230 countries.

Download data (.xls)

Interactive map

Using the map

Countries are colour-coded by the average price of one gigabyte (1GB) of mobile data. As you can see, this paints an interesting picture, with a lot of the countries where mobile data is cheapest in and around the former USSR, and with some of the most expensive in North America, Africa and Western Europe.

Hovering over an individual country will bring up its associated data. This includes country name, its ranking out of the 230 countries measured, its cheapest available 1GB of data, its most expensive 1GB of data, how many plans were measured to create the average, and on what day the snapshot was taken.

Why some countries are missing data

Unlike our measurements of worldwide broadband speed and worldwide broadband pricing, where lack of fixed-line infrastructure meant significant gaps, mobile data provision is near-ubiquitous. However, there are still some countries or territories where either no provision exists, there exists only 2G infrastructure, providing only calls and/or SMS texts, or the data simply isn't available. And there are countries and regions where problems with its currency do not allow for useful comparison.

It is a dwindling list, however. This year's excluded countries are: Christmas Island, Eritrea, North Korea, Marshall Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, South Sudan, Tuvalu, Vatican City (Holy See), Venezuela, Wallis and Futuna, Congo (Democratic Republic of), and Zimbabwe. You can find the reasons behind the exclusion of each of these countries in the second tab of the downloadable data.

Related research

Other connectivity-focused data published by Cable.co.uk and various data partners are as follows:

The Worldwide broadband speed league by Cable.co.uk in association with M-Lab, a partnership between New America's Open Technology Institute, Google Inc., Princeton University's PlanetLab, and other supporting partners.

The worldwide broadband price comparison by Cable.co.uk. And finally, our study of global network speeds during Covid 19 lockdown periods in conjunction with the Oxford Covid Lockdown Stringency Tracker.

Highlights

Here is a quick look at some of the highlights unearthed in the study

Israel

#1. Israel

With three-quarters of Israelis owning a smartphone, Israel boasts a higher smartphone market penetration than the United States of America. Multiple providers cover the majority of the country with fast 4G LTE.

Kyrgyzstan

#2. Kyrgyzstan

With minimal, albeit growing, fixed-line connectivity across the country, Kyrgyzstan relies heavily on mobile data provision. The Kyrgyzstani mobile sector is healthy, open, and welcoming of foreign investment.

Fiji

#3. Fiji

Fiji enjoys a sophisticated comms infrastructure, especially when compared with other Pacific Island nations. It is leading the way in cheap, ubiquitous connectivity and leading the way in both LTE and 5G.

Italy

#4. Italy

A dozen or so popular providers in Italy collectively offer some of the cheapest data in the world. 4G is ubiquitous in Italy, and it currently is in the process of rolling out an extensive 5G network.

The most and least expensive countries in the world for 1GB of mobile data

Here we take a closer look at the five most and least expensive countries in the world to buy 1GB of mobile data and outline why they are priced in such a way

Five most expensive countries in the world

The five most expensive countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are Equatorial Guinea (49.67), Falkland Islands (44.56), Saint Helena (39.87), São Tomé and Príncipe (30.97) and Malawi (25.46).

The similarities between these five nations are both striking and obvious. Four of five are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and four of five are island nations. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most expensive region in the world for mobile data generally, while island nations also tend to be among the most expensive.

Five cheapest countries in the world

The five cheapest countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are Israel (0.05), Kyrgyzstan (0.15), Fiji (0.19), Italy (0.27), and Sudan (0.27).

Conversely to the most expensive, only one of these countries is an island, and only one is located in Sub-Saharan Africa. Further, they all either contain excellent fibre broadband infrastructure or in the case of Kyrgyzstan, Fiji and Sudan rely heavily on mobile data as the primary means to keep its populace connected to the rest of the world.

Countries can be categorised using a mixture of these four 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 mobile data plans have escalated far beyond the 1-10GB per month median, offering instead plans with caps 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 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.

Regions

Here we take a closer look at how pricing is averaged in thirteen global regions, and talk a little about the current state of each with regard to mobile data and pricing

Asia (excl. Near East)

Asian nations make up over a quarter of the top 20 cheapest countries for mobile data, with both Bangladesh (USD 0.34) and Sri Lanka (USD 0.38) in the top ten. Only three Asian countries are more expensive than the global average of USD 4.21 – South Korea (USD 4.72), Taiwan (USD 5.67) and British Indian Ocean Territory, the most expensive in the region at USD 7.50.

Baltics

Two of the three Baltic nations included in the study sit inside the less expensive half of the list, although for countries that enjoy some of the most advanced broadband networks in the world they aren’t represented in the top 40 when it comes to the cost of mobile data.

Lithuania is the cheapest of the three with 1GB costing an average of USD 1.38 and sits in 53rd place in the world, while in Estonia 1GB costs USD 1.39 on average. Latvia sits in the most expensive half of the list with an average of USD 3.49, although it’s still below the global average of USD 4.07.

Caribbean

Most Caribbean nations are in the more expensive half of the list. The Cayman Islands are the most expensive in the Caribbean with an average of USD 11.97, while an average 1GB in the Haiti is 14 times cheaper at USD 0.85.

Central America

The cheapest mobile data plans in Central America can be found in Nicaragua, where 1GB of data costs USD 0.94 on average. Prices are somewhat steeper in El Salvador (USD 1.33) and Honduras (USD 1.56). The most expensive country in Central America is Panama, where an average 1GB costs USD 4.49.

CIS (Former USSR)

A number of CIS countries are among the very cheapest in the world for mobile data and all but two sit inside the less expensive half of the table. Kyrgyzstan is second-cheapest in the world overall with an average of USD 0.15, ahead of sixth-placed Russia (0.29) and 13th-placed Belarus (0.43).

Eastern Europe

Within Eastern Europe, Moldova (USD 0.32) is the cheapest followed by Poland (USD 0.64), Macedonia (USD 0.96) and Romania (USD 1.18). Czech Republic is the most expensive in the region, with 1GB of data costing USD 8.15 on average. Of the Baltic nations, Lithuania is the cheapest at USD 1.38.

Near East

Israel is the cheapest country in the Near East region and cheapest in the world, with 1GB costing an average of USD 0.05. Turkey (USD 0.63) is a distant second-cheapest, closely followed by Kuwait (USD 0.81) and Iraq (1.14). The most expensive mobile data in the region can be found in Yemen, where the average price of 1GB is USD 15.98.

Northern Africa

All but one of the seven North African countries are in the cheapest half of the table. Algeria is the cheapest in North Africa at USD 0.51 and the most expensive in the region, Mauritania (USD 5.56), the only country to exceed the global average of USD 4.07. Northern Africa is the cheapest overall region in the world.

Northern America

The average price of 1GB of mobile data in both Bermuda (USD 19.80) and Canada (USD 5.72) is in excess of the global average of USD 4.07. The United States is the cheapest country in the region for the first time in this study, and now has an average cost of USD 3.33 per 1GB of data.

Oceania

The average 1GB of data costs USD 0.56 in Samoa, making it the second-cheapest country in Oceania, just behind Fiji (USD 0.19). The region’s island nations are mostly in the more expensive half of the table, with Tokelau the most expensive at USD 20.48. Australia comes in third place in the region at USD 0.70, with News Zealand a long way behind – 15th in the region with an average 1GB cost of USD 6.99.

South America

Chile, with an average of USD 0.39, and Brazil (USD 0.92) are the only South American countries to make it into the top 50 cheapest in the world. Ecuador (USD 1.06) is the next cheapest in South America followed by Peru (USD 1.15). The most expensive in the region is the Falkland Islands at USD 44.56 – it is also the second most expensive in the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa on the other hand has just one country among the top ten cheapest in the world – Sudan, in fifth place overall at USD 0.27. The region also has six out of the ten most expensive countries in the world, with Equatorial Guinea the most expensive in the world (USD 49.67), joined by Saint Helena (USD 39.87), São Tomé and Príncipe (USD 30.97), Malawi (USD 25.46) and Chad (USD 23.33) at the bottom of the table.

Western Europe

The cheapest mobile data in Western Europe is in Italy in fourth place overall, where the average price of 1GB is just USD 0.27. France (USD 0.41) is the second cheapest in Western Europe followed by San Marino (USD 0.43) and Denmark (USD 0.79). The UK (USD 1.42) is the 11th cheapest in Western Europe and 78th cheapest in the world.

Our comments

Many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories. Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte. Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford.

At the more expensive end of the list, we have countries where often the infrastructure isn’t great but also where consumption is very small. People are often buying data packages of just a tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy. Many countries in the middle of the list have good infrastructure and competitive mobile markets, and while their prices aren’t among the cheapest in the world they wouldn’t necessarily be considered expensive by its consumers.

Resources

Downloadable versions of the data set (.xls), the original press release and the research methodology (.pdf)

League table

The full data set can be downloaded here.

Press release

If you wish to see the original press release for this research, you can download it here as a PDF.

Methodology

Our research methodology and notes on how to interpret the data can be downloaded here as a PDF.

Contact us

Dan Howdle

Consumer telecoms analyst

Email: dan@cable.co.uk