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Data survey suggests UK consumers should be more price savvy

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Cable.co.uk has released data which suggests the UK is 136th in the world for affordability when it comes to mobile data plans.

Data is increasingly running our lives and while many might feel they have struck the right balance between quantity and affordability this survey suggests otherwise. After comparing 6,313 mobile data plans in 230 countries, the UK ranks at 136 worldwide, and in the bottom half of the table for Europe.

“When looking at the UK compared to our European and EU counterparts, it’s disappointing to see the UK among the most expensive countries for mobile data,” said Dan Howdle of Cable.co.uk.

“Despite a healthy UK marketplace, our study has uncovered that EU nations such as Finland, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Austria and France pay a fraction of what we pay in the UK for similar data usage. It will be interesting to see how our position is affected post-Brexit.”

On average, UK consumers are currently paying £4.97 per GB a month ($6.42), with the lowest being £0.7 and the most expensive as high as £32 per GB a month. What is worth taking into account is the survey only measured SIM-only plans, excluding the complicated task of factoring in the price of a subsidized device. But how does this compare to other countries?

India was the cheapest worldwide, with a GB costing only $0.26 per month, though all of the telcos are struggling to remain profitable. Asian countries take up 50% of the top 20 in fact. Finland was the cheapest in Europe, $1.16 per GB a month, while across the pond, US consumers are paying $12.37 per GB a month and the Canadians came out at $12.02. The global average was $8.53.

As there haven’t been riots on the streets, it does seem most consumers are relatively content with the price they are paying. Admittedly in some cases it is extortionately expensive, something which should be addressed, but many of the markets are pricing plans in-line with the relative wealth of the nation.

That said, there is a wide chasm between the most and least expensive plans more often than not. This suggests consumers are not being savvy enough when purchasing mobile contracts in the first place, are not aware of other deals which are available or do not believe there is value in changing provider. It may be easy to blame the telcos for the high-price of data, but this can be a lazy route to take.

Cable.co.uk and other consumer groups might use this data to punish telcos, we suspect the increased price in the UK is more to do with consumers not being savvy enough. After years as a Vodafone customer, your correspondent switched to Giffgaff and a data plan which was much more generous. Admittedly a subsidized phone is not included in the deal, but in paying £1.33 per GB ($1.75), the monthly bill is substantially lower than what Vodafone was offering, or what Cable.co.uk have identified as the monthly average in the UK.

We believe the consumer is not blameless. For example, a now-available Vodafone 24-month contract with a Huawei Mate 20 Pro would cost £38 per month. Adding in the upfront cost of £179, the total would be £3.03 per GB a month. This is still below the average quoted by Cable.co.uk and would still be lower if the cost of the handset was factored into the equation.

Cable.co.uk has only taken into account tariffs which are currently available to consumers, therefore removing data points from legacy and on-going tariffs which might have thrown the averages, but the availability of cheaper contracts suggests some of the blame has to be taken by the consumer.

The price of tariffs are generally relative to the market which they are in. In the UK, we are relatively lucky due to competition keeping the price of data down (in comparison to the geographically vast markets such as the US) but squeeze too tight and the telcos don’t have enough to invest in networks in a commercially viable fashion, or they prioritise markets which are more profitable. Both would impact experience and the latter would create a digital divide.

While your correspondent cannot comment on other markets, being based in the UK, the outcome of this survey seems to be relatively clear. If you’re not happy with the price of your tariff, move, as there are cheaper options on the market.


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