The internet is bringing our world closer together, but at what cost?
To find out, we reviewed the price of broadband and mobile data from 228 countries around the world.
Spreadsheets are boring, our interactive map is color coded so you can visualize the costs of mobile data around the world at a glance. The deeper the color, the more expensive the average price for 1GB of mobile data is in that country. Glancing at the map you can see data pricing seems to run in clusters. There are groups of expensive countries that are close together and groups of inexpensive countries seem to run together.
If you hover your mouse over any country, a pop up of detailed information will show. We show you the country name. The country pricing rank among the 228 countries included in the data. The cheapest 1GB price available in the country. The most expensive 1GB price available there. The number of plans examined. And the average data cost for that specific country.
With the data on broadband speed, geopolitical restrictions and lack of fixed-line broadband availability was behind most missing data. Broadband data doesn’t rely on lots of laid cable or fiber though. Almost anywhere in the world, mobile signals can be received and sent. But not all mobile signals are equal. In many places mobile service needs a satellite phone. Many more places 2G is the fastest mobile service available or only calls and/or text messaging (SMS) are available. Mobile broadband simply isn’t as widely available as you might think. Also, some areas have money issues that make currency conversions problematic to properly compare pricing.
No broadband service providers exist for several countries. These are the Cook Islands, Christmas Island, Eritrea, North Korea, Marshall Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, South Sudan, Tuvalu, Vatican City, Venezuela, and Wallis and Futuna. In Democratic Republic of the Congo service is only priced in units, not in GBs. Then in Zimbabwe, the exchange rates are notoriously unreliable.
Let’s take a look at some country highlights.
India’s economy is very dependent on jobs from foreign companies. As a result (as well as a host of other economic factors) India’s currency is weak against the US Dollar. That plus a huge domestic population of technologically-savvy young adults has led to many mobile broadband competitors. All of this creates some of the world's low mobile data rates.
While Israel places around the middle of wired internet costs (around $27/month), their mobile broadband costs are very low at about 11 cents USD per GB. High smartphone adoption rates and provider competition helps to keep costs down in this geographically small country.
Kyrgyzstan may seem an unlikely winner in the mobile broadband price ranks. But at an average price of 21 cents USD per GB of data, it comes in at the 3rd cheapest in the world. Part of the high use of mobile broadband is likely due to limited fixed line internet connectivity in the country. Australian telecom research firm, BuddeComm, found that 4G mobile broadband now reaches over 50% of Kyrgyzstan even as telephone lines and infrastructure for fixed internet declines.
Italy’s mobile broadband providers are many. Some of them supply coverage to Vatican City (one of the blank spots on our map since they have no internal mobile providers). The competition helps keep prices low, coming in at an average 43 cents USD per GB of data. Like many countries, 5G is only beginning to roll out so most plans still revolve around 4G.
This is where we dig deeper into the cost data. We looked at the 5 most expensive and the 5 cheapest mobile broadband countries globally to see what influences service and pricing.
Per research gathered by M-Labs, the five countries with the highest average mobile broadband costs (per GB) are:
While pricing is all over the map (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves) for mobile broadband in most respects, these 5 all share some big similarities. The most obvious one is they are all island nations. Why does that matter? Most supplies for infrastructure must be imported at higher costs. Storm damage to infrastructure is an ongoing risk and cost. And in some cases higher cost satellite providers must be used to obtain service. For example, Hurricane Maria in 2017 destroyed 95.6% of cellular towers in Puerto Rico. All of that gets passed on to consumers.
As you can see on the interactive map, the countries with the lowest cost per 1 GB of data are:
Each of these countries has strong demand for mobile broadband to drive competition. Most either have a lot of competition between providers or strong fiber infrastructure to reduce costs.
Others simply have no choice but to depend on mobile data due to regional conflicts or geography. So adoption rates are high enough to push for lower prices.
In reviewing the research on broadband speed, some common threads became clear. Most countries fell easily into one of 4 categories that described the state of their mobile broadband.
Strong infrastructure Countries in the study with well-established and widespread broadband infrastructure often have lower costs for consumers. Many of these countries have providers offering high data use plans or even unlimited plans. While the actual plan cost might be quite high, the cost per GB is very low.
Countries with high smartphone use and younger populations tend to fit this category. For example, India and Italy fall into the strong infrastructure category.
Heavy usage While countries with strong infrastructure do have heavy data use, this heavy usage deals more with mobile use in absence of reliable fixed broadband. In countries with poor fixed infrastructure (due to anything from geography to war) citizens have little choice but to use a mobile service.
In these countries, mobile broadband is the primary communications option regardless of what it costs for them to get it. Often, though, the reliance on mobile reduces costs because of healthy competition in the market. The majority of countries in this category are also less developed and have lower wages than some of their more developed country counterparts. Kyrgyzstan could be considered part of this group.
Data limits Countries in this category are ones where data is limited in quantity. Often this is due to strained infrastructure in which numbers of users far outweighs data capacity. Sometimes though, it is a lack of competition allowing providers to charge more for less service.
The profile for these countries usually shows SIM cards to be affordable and on the cheap side. But plans only include 2 to 5 MB of data a day. When adding up these small nibbles of data to reach 1 GB, the final cost winds up being pretty high. Users may not be using 1 GB in several months however, so the amount they actually spend could be far lower. This fits countries like Chad.
Robust economy The countries we tend to think of as wealthy usually fall into this category. Germany, the UK, and France can be found in this category. Usually there is good infrastructure, robust data use and allowances, and reasonable competition.
Higher speeds and infrastructure that supports more data use may have higher costs that get passed on to the consumer in some cases. Overall, these countries tend to reflect somewhere around the global cost average per GB of data.
Now let’s look at the global regions and how the countries close to each other geographically compare to each other in mobile broadband. We’ve analyzed the data and are using thirteen regions to group countries for this comparison
The cheapest mobile data in the world (per GB) is in this region. India, with its average $.09 USD per GB tops the list. Countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal, and Iran also have lower than average prices.
However, some of the most expensive data (per GB) on the data is also in this region. Tech savvy South Korea, with its demanding consumers, comes in with each GB of data costing $10.94 USD. Hong Kong and Taiwan join South Korea as expensive data countries in this region.
With only three countries in this region, all of them sit below the global average in data costs. The countries all have good fixed broadband networks as well. Estonia is the lowest cost of the three at $1.27 USD per GB of mobile broadband data. Latvia is the most expensive at $3.79 USD per GB and that is still well below the global data cost average of $5.09 USD per GB.
The Caribbean region is full of island countries. Many of those are less developed with lower incomes except for tourist areas and infrastructure to support tourism. Perhaps this is why most Caribbean countries tend to have higher than average data costs. That, and the widespread practice of selling small data packages (again, partially to fit the needs of short term tourists).
The Cayman Islands top the region’s costs with $23.05 USD per GB of data. The Dominican Republic, less of a tourist destination than many other islands, has the lowest cost in the region by far at $0.74 per GB. The next lowest cost is considerably higher with Guadeloupe having an average per GB cost of $2.42 USD.
Central American countries in our analysis mostly clustered towards the middle of data costs when compared globally. Mexico has one of the cheaper fixed broadband cost in the region at an average $25.06 USD per month. But it is one of the more expensive regional mobile data cost centers.
In Mexico a GB of mobile data averages $4.77 USD. El Salvador, on the other hand, has a low mobile per GB cost of $1.45 USD. This in spite of higher fixed broadband costs at a monthly average of $43.69 per Numbeo.
This region has gone through a lot of turmoil in the last couple of decades and much of the infrastructure in the region reflects that. Many countries in this region rely on mobile broadband out of necessity where fixed broadband is not available.
Overall the region is less expensive than many others with all except one falling in the lower half of global costs. The lowest of the low costs in the region belongs to Kyrgyzstan (3rd cheapest in the world) at $0.21 USD per GB. The only regional country to fall in the top 50% of costs is Turkmenistan, with $11.44 USD per GB in costs.
The Eastern European region generally includes good infrastructure and most of the countries in the region have strong economies. However, recent economic issues are reflected in the data for countries like Greece. Greece’s $12.06 USD per GB of data makes it one of the top 30 most expensive data locations globally, and the most expensive in the region.
By contrast, Poland’s average cost per GB is only $0.70 USD.
This region is a bit of a grab bag of technology levels. Government restrictions and geographic challenges vary widely as well. As a result, costs for GB of mobile data vary widely and include some of the cheapest in the world and some of the most expensive.
Israel is the cheapest for this area, with $0.11 USD per GB in cost. Yemen however, is the region’s most expensive at $15.98 USD per GB.
This region holds 7 countries and is overall home to low costs of mobile data. Several countries landed in the top 40 cheapest in the world for mobile broadband costs. Algeria at an average $0.65 USD per GB is the least expensive in the region and Libya is the most expensive regionally at $4.73 USD per GB.
The rest of the countries in the region spread out with Western Sahara and Morocco in the top 40 cheapest and the others drifting towards Libya’s costs...almost.
In spite of strong infrastructure, robust economies, and good competition, several of the wealthy countries in the North American region pay dearly for mobile data. Canada pays a whopping $12.55 USD per GB and the United States pays $8.00 USD per GB.
Greenland faces costs partially due to no competition for its one provider and so pays $9.56 USD per GB. Then Bermuda, an island nation where supplies must be shipped in at higher costs and service caters to tourists, pays the most regionally at $28.75 USD per GB.
Oceania features many island nations, similar to the Caribbean. Also like the Caribbean, plans often offer only tiny bits of data so by the time you add up enough service to reach 1 GB, the costs are higher than they might otherwise be. The region runs expensive for the most part but also includes the 2nd cheapest in the world.
Nuru is the most expensive regionally at $30.47 USD per GB. Australia is the second cheapest globally and the cheapest in the region at $0.68 USD per GB in cost.
South America is as diverse in mobile data costs as it is culturally, geographically, and politically. Smaller northern countries and the Falkland Islands trended towards more expensive while larger and more rugged countries were generally cheaper.
The Falkland Islands was the most expensive in the region (and 2nd most expensive globally) at $40.41 USD per GB while Chile came in cheapest at only $0.71 USD per GB. Six countries in the region total placed in the 100 cheapest countries globally for mobile data.
Possibly because the region has very high wired internet costs (in part due to challenging geography), the broadband costs are low for much of the region with eight countries in the 50 cheapest list. Somalia is the cheapest in the region and one of the ten cheapest in the world at only $0.50 USD per GB of data.
However, like many regions, the low cost is not universal. Saint Helena, a tiny island nation, has costs for 1 GB of mobile data reaching averages of $52.50 USD.
The Western Europe region is mostly wealthy countries with strong infrastructure and a lot of government subsidies for industry. Countries range from very cheap to about double the global cost average.
Italy is the lowest cost for Western Europe, with 1 GB of data costing $0.43 USD. On the other end of the region’s costs is Andorra, with 1GB of data costing $9.54 USD.
Like most cost comparisons globally, many factors make up the pressures on each individual country’s markets. Government structure, business investment, population size, geography, cultural pressures, and much more all work together to decide what gets built, how much competition there is, and how data is consumed.
In countries with lots of competition, costs can be lower. In countries with strong infrastructure that is well established, delivery costs may be lower. In other countries, government restrictions increase costs of service. Still other locations face low data usage or have overwhelmed systems so costs per GB are larger. Still others have fewer customers because they just can’t afford it.
Overall, subsidised and heavy reliance on mobile broadband over fixed internet will result in lower costs while wealthier and more developed countries sometimes pay more as they race for the fastest speeds and newest equipment.