The latest global analysis of prices for mobile-voice, mobile-data and fixed-broadband services by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) suggests that affordability is not the only barrier to Internet uptake.
In the new statistical report, titled ‘Measuring Digital Development: ICT Price Trends 2019,’ the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technology noted that prices for telecommunication services continue to decline but do not translate into rapidly increasing Internet penetration rates.
The report revealed that on average, prices for mobile-voice, mobile-data and fixed-broadband services are decreasing steadily around the world, and in some countries even dramatically. The reduction in price relative to income is even more dramatic, suggesting that, globally, telecommunication and information and communication technology services are becoming more affordable.
However, both trends do not translate into rapidly increasing Internet penetration rates which suggests that there are other barriers to Internet use. Those factors include the low level of education, lack of relevant content, lack of content in local languages, lack of digital skills and a low-quality Internet connection, which may also prevent effective use.
Key results from the analysis are:
An entry-level mobile-voice basket remains broadly affordable in most countries. In 70 countries, a low-usage mobile-voice plan was available for less than 1 percent of gross national income (GNI) per capita, and in a further 37 countries, it stood below 2 percent. Although causality is difficult to prove, price reductions have undoubtedly helped contribute to the rapid rise in the mobile-voice penetration rate, alongside growing competition and better price monitoring and evaluation by regulators.
The expansion of bundled services has further reduced prices, as combined data-and-voice baskets are generally less expensive than the sum of the two separate baskets in most markets.
Prices have decreased from 2013 to 2019 relative to GNI per capita The global average price of a mobile-data basket of 1.5 GB shrank from 8.4 percent of GNI per capita in 2013 to 3.2 percent in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of almost -15 percent. When expressed in USD, the global average price of a mobile-data basket of at least 1.5 GB dropped by 7 percent on average annually between 2013 and 2019.
Good progress has been made towards the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s target of achieving affordable broadband costing 2-5 percent of GNI per capita by 2025, but still more remains to be done. There are still nine developing countries and 31 LDCs that have yet to reach the 2 percent target by 2025.
Fixed-broadband packages remain generally more expensive than mobile-data packages (although data allowances are not always directly comparable). Over the past four years, the affordability of fixed broadband has not changed substantially, but advertised download speeds continue to increase.