Local mobile data prices still fairly costly as SA ranks 148 out of 228 countries

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The Competition Commission may have negotiated mobile data prices downwards in recent weeks, but comparatively, South Africa still has fairly expensive mobile data.

According to a report by Cable.co.uk released on Tuesday, South Africa ranks 148th out of 228 countries when it comes to mobile data prices. It found that the average price for 1GB in SA is $4.30 (approximately R79).

While this is high compared to several African countries, it is still cheaper than some developed countries, including the United States ($8), Canada ($12.55) and Switzerland ($8.38). The global average is $5.09 (around R91).

African countries

Five of the ten most expensive countries to buy mobile data are in sub-Saharan Africa. These include Saint Helena ($52.50), Sāo Tomé and Principe ($28.26), Malawi ($27.41), Benin ($27.22) and Chad ($23.33).

South Africa ranks lower (more expensive) than several African countries, including Rwanda (64th, $1.48), Nigeria (58th, $1.39), Kenya (41st, $1.05) and Tanzania (23rd, $0.73).

Somalia has the cheapest mobile data prices in Africa and ranks seventh in the world at $0.50. With virtually no broadband infrastructure, mobile data is more or less the only way access the internet in the conflict-prone country.

In North Africa, mobile data prices are generally cheaper. Algeria is the cheapest at $0.65 while Libya ($4.73) is the most expensive in the region.

Global comparisons

India is home to the cheapest mobile data plans in the world, with 1GB costing an average of just $0.09. Saint Helena is the world’s most expensive place to buy mobile data.

In general, Asian countries make up a third of the top 20 cheapest countries for mobile data, with India top and Sri Lanka ($0.51) and Vietnam ($0.57) also in the top ten.

Commenting on the survey, Cable.co.uk’s analyst Dan Howdle said, “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.”

A Competition Commission report released in December 2019 found that data prices in South Africa were too high and reflected “a bias against the poor.”

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said there was “scope to reduce these prices in the region of 30-50 percent.” Since then, major mobile operators, including Vodacom and MTN, have announced price reductions.

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