• Jolanta Stanke

Mobile Broadband Tariff Report Q4 2021

Updated: May 26

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 December 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.


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 2021 the dataset includes 98 5G tariffs from 13 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.


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 info@point-topic.com.


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.


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.


Key points:

  • In Q4 2021, the average monthly tariff for residential 4G data services varied from $59 PPP in Norway to $17 PPP in Italy.

  • The average data cap on the 4G data tariffs varied from unlimited data in Finland to 13.5GB in Slovakia.

  • The average 5G tariffs were more than twice the price of 4G in Poland, Slovenia, Austria, France and Italy.

  • The average data allowance on 5G tariffs varied from 29GB in Hungary to 750GB in Denmark.

  • The average downstream speed on 5G was 628Mbps, up from 597Mbps six months ago. In comparison, the average bandwidth on 4G in Q4 2021 was 173Mbps.

Overall 4G and 5G tariff trends


4G tariffs

In Q4 2021, the average monthly tariff for residential 4G data services varied from $59 PPP in Norway to $17 PPP in Italy. In 15 out of 30 countries in our sample, this measure was higher than the European average of $36 PPP. The average itself has gone down from $37 PPP six months ago. This is also true for the highest tariff, which was $78 PPP in Q2 2021 compared to $59 PPP in Q4 2021.



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

The average data cap on the 4G data tariffs varied from unlimited data (600GB) in Finland[1] to 13.5GB in Slovakia (Figure 2).


In some countries, a low average monthly subscription comes with high average data allowance. As in previous quarters, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands are good examples of such markets, 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
Figure 2. Average monthly data allowance in Gigabytes, residential 4G tariffs

Finland, one of the first countries to launch 4G services, 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.

On the other hand, low average monthly tariffs in countries like Spain ($20 PPP) and Belgium ($26 PPP) reflect modest average monthly data caps of 15GB and 26GB respectively.


However, these countries are among the most expensive in terms of the average cost per GB of data, which in Q4 2021 varied from $2.27 PPP in Slovakia to $0.05 PPP in Finland (Figure 3). In eight countries out 30 this measure was above the European average of $0.49 PPP.

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

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
Figure 4. Average theoretical downstream speed on residential 4G services

Where the data is available, we looked at the countries which are investing in more spectrum, bandwidth and more advanced networks, including those using the LTE-Advanced technology. In Q4 2021, the average downstream bandwidth on European 4G networks varied between 314Mbps and 30Mbps. As before, Latvia is leading the way with an average downstream speed of 314Mbps, while its operators also offer significant data allowances (359GB on average). Italy, Sweden, Slovakia and Germany follow closely with an average downstream speed of 300Mbps, though the average data cap is above the European average only in Sweden (202GB). At the other end of the spectrum, Austria is an example of a country where providers offer relatively low bandwidth (93Mbps on average) but are among the most generous in terms of the average data allowance at 515GB[2].


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 currently limited and only reflects some general trends.


At the end of 2021, the average monthly subscription for data-only 5G services in our sample varied from $29 PPP in the Netherlands to $88 PPP in France (Figure 5). In all countries except the Netherlands, 5G tariffs were higher than 4G, as one would expect given typically higher bandwidth and lower latency on 5G. The average 5G tariffs were more than twice the price of 4G in Poland, Slovenia, Austria, France and Italy.


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

The average data allowance on 5G tariffs varied from 29GB in Hungary to 750GB in Denmark. The latter, along with Austria, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia 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 6. Average monthly data allowance in Gigabytes, 5G data tariffs
Figure 6. Average monthly data allowance in Gigabytes, 5G data tariffs

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

Switzerland leads the 5G bandwidth league table as both Sunrise and Swisscom have launched up to 2Gbps 5G services. In Italy and France, Vodafone and SFR are offering up to 1Gbps theoretical 5G speeds. At the end of 2021, the European average downstream speed on 5G was 628Mbps, up from 597Mbps six months ago. In comparison, the average bandwidth on 4G was 173Mbps.


Regional and country benchmarks


The data varies 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 213GB compared to 157GB in CEE (Central & Eastern Europe) in Q4 2021. It went up in both regions, compared to Q2 2021 but more so in Western Europe.


In Q4 2021, customers in Western Europe were charged a marginally lower average monthly subscription at $35.09 PPP. In CEE, the same indicator was $37.80 PPP (Figure 8). Given the lower average data cap, the average cost per GB in CEE was higher and stood at $0.24 PPP compared to $0.16 in Western Europe. On the other hand, CEE led in terms of downstream speeds on 4G connections with an average 216Mbps compared to 143Mbps in Western Europe (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G services
Figure 8. Regional tariff benchmarks for residential 4G services

Among the selected six mature markets, the Netherlands stood out in terms of the highest 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
Figure 9. Tariff benchmarks for residential 4G services in six major European economies

Mobile operators in the Netherlands offer consumers on average 301GB of 4G data a month, while Sweden follows with 202GB average allowance. The Netherlands is the second cheapest market in terms of the average monthly subscription at $32.01 PPP with only Germany charging less at $26.81 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, $ PPP
Figure 10. Average data and cost of 4G services in selected countries, $ 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 Q4 2021 (Figure 11).


The entry level unlimited data tariffs in the countries at the high end of the spectrum (Norway, Czech Republic) were more than 3 times higher than those at the low end (Finland, Romania). Of course, in addition to data allowance, there will be other features of the unlimited data tariff plans that will influence the cost.


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, Q4 2021
Table 1. Country scorecard by residential 4G tariffs, Q4 2021

We have included a ‘variance’ column to indicate how different ranks for the different metrics are spread. We see that the wide spread in Hungary, Estonia and Luxembourg for example, is represented by high variance. At the other end of the scale countries like Poland, Switzerland and Slovakia rank rather consistently.


Among the EU-15 countries, the differences between entry level, average and median tariffs are especially small in Spain and Finland (Figure 12).

Figure 12. Entry level, average and median monthly 4G tariffs in EU-15 countries ($ PPP)
Figure 12. Entry level, average and median monthly 4G tariffs in EU-15 countries ($ PPP)

Why such marked differences between countries?

There is no simple clear-cut explanation as many factors come into play. The length of time after the 4G/5G networks were launched, service take-up, the market shares of ‘standalone’ and of multi-play bundles, the extent of competition from fixed broadband services with comparable bandwidth, the availability and the cost of 4G/5G spectrum, the regulatory pressures to offer mobile broadband services in remote and rural areas as a priority, the demographic characteristics and life-styles of the users and the cord-cutting tendencies will all have influenced the 4G and 5G offerings available in different European markets. A further statistical modelling would provide more insight into these differences.

[1] Note: for comparison purposes we assigned 600GB data cap to ‘unlimited data’ tariffs.

[2] Denmark is a special case. The 71Mbps refers to the maximum download speed that the Danish operators are allowed to market after agreement with the consumer ombudsman, even though the actual speeds can be much higher.


 

Access to the full version of this report, including the analysis of business tariffs, and 900 tariffs from all major mobile broadband providers from the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland are available to subscribers of Point Topic’s Mobile Broadband Tariffs service. To find out more, please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail isabelle.anderson@point-topic.com

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