Countries With Cheapest & Most Expensive Mobile Data Around The World That Might Surprise You

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Jan 12 2023
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As the world rushes to adopt 5G network technology, and watches how the United States tried to stop China’s Huawei Technologies Co. dominance in the field, some countries in the world are still using 2G infrastructure. Such remote territories or extremely poor countries in Africa, Central America and South America could only provide calls and SMS texts because mobile data simply isn’t available.


It was “only 28 years ago” when the GSM standards and 2G phones were deployed. While many developed nations no longer support the old and outdated technology, some are still alive and kicking. For example, the CEO of Vodafone Erik Brenneis announced that their 2G will be supported at least until 2025 in Europe because many legacy connections still run on 2G.


One of the biggest challenges is the cost. Based on a UN report in Nov 2022, the cost of mobile data plans in low-income countries remains many times greater than in higher-income countries. As a result, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies, said about “one-third” of the global population remains unconnected to the internet.

Travel - Cost of Mobile Internet Around The World

From online shopping to online classroom and from Instagram to TikTok, youth between the ages of 15-24 are the driving force of connectivity, where 75% of young people worldwide now able to use the internet. The mobile data provision and affordability might be incredibly cheap to some, but for billions of people around the world, it is just as out of reach as ever.


According to a research by UK-based Cable, which analyzed 5,292 mobile data plans across 233 countries, there’s an extraordinary disparity between the countries that can easily afford to buy 1GB (gigabyte) mobile data and the countries that can’t. Israel has the cheapest mobile internet in the world, with one gigabyte of data costing on average just US$0.04 in 2022.


In fact, 1GB of data is a whopping 3 times cheaper in Israel than in Italy (US$0.12) – the world’s second cheapest. Not only Israel offers the cheapest mobile data on planet Earth, with three in four Israelis owning a smartphone, the country has an even higher smartphone penetration than the U.S. The third cheapest is San Marino (US$0.14), followed by Fiji (US$0.15) and India (US$0.17).

Graphic Chart - Cost of Mobile Internet Around The World

China, despite its dominance in 5G network infrastructure, isn’t the cheapest place that you can purchase mobile data. It costs US$0.41 for one gigabyte of data – 10 times more expensive that Israel. To be fair, that does not mean the mobile speed in Israel is faster than in China. On the contrary, it’s more than 3 times faster in China than in Israel.


The top-5 most expensive countries to get 1GB mobile data are Saint Helena (US$41.06), the Falkland Islands (US$38.45), São Tomé and Príncipe (US$29.49), Tokelau (US$17.88) and Yemen (US$16.58). Two of the five countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and four of five are island nations. Essentially, Sub-Saharan Africa is the second-most expensive region in the world for mobile data.


Basically, there are some factors that influence the price of mobile data. First, countries with excellent long-established infrastructure (4G or new 5G) tend to be able to offer cheaper data. Second, countries with little to no fixed-line broadband availability, therefore, rely heavily on mobile data to get online can offer incredibly cheap 1GB mobile data compared to other countries globally.

Gigabyte Data - Cost of Mobile Internet Around The World

Third, wealthy nations tend to have the resources to build better mobile infrastructure, decently-sized data caps and relatively healthy markets. And since populations can afford to pay more, which normally associated with higher cost of ownership and operation of network infrastructure, mobile data prices tend to be higher. Switzerland charges US$7.37 per gigabyte while South Korea is US$12.55.


Regionally, North America is the most expensive overall – average cost of US$4.98 per GB, which is higher than the global average of US$3.12. Canada is the most expensive of the region (US$5.94), followed by the U.S. (US$5.62), while Greenland is the cheapest (US$3.36). In South America, Uruguay (US$0.27), Colombia (US$0.49) and Chile (US$0.51) are the only American countries in the top-50 cheapest in the world.


Asian nations make up a third (30%) of the top-20 cheapest countries for mobile data, with both India (US$0.17) and Nepal (US$0.27) in the top-10. Only three Asian countries are more expensive than the global average (US$3.12) – Japan (US$3.85), British Indian Ocean Territory (US$5.00) and South Korea (US$12.55 – the most expensive in Asia).

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In Eastern Europe, Moldova (US$0.26) is the cheapest, followed by Poland (US$0.41), Romania (US$0.45) and Montenegro (US$0.60). Greece is the most expensive in the region, with 1GB of data costing US$5.30 on average. In Western Europe, San Marino (US$0.14) is the second-cheapest after Italy (US$0.12), followed by France (US$0.23) and Monaco (US$0.40). In the UK, it’s US$0.79 per GB.


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Israel is a huge area compared to China.

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