Snapshot: How much do we spend on mobile service across the Caribbean?

We are updating our Snapshot from May 2011, to determine whether or not or the extent to which mobile calling rates have changed across the English-speaking Caribbean.

The take-up and use of mobile/cellular service in the Caribbean is virtually ubiquitous across the Caribbean. In most countries, service is provided in a competitive envrionment comprising at least two operators. Although the market might be fairly well established in most jurisdictions, operators regularly adjust their prices to take into account, among other things, changing costs and inflation.

In May 2011, we provided a snapshot of the likely monthly spend for mobile/cellular service based on pre-defined baskets of services. Six months later, we are examining whether or not or the extent to which mobile/cellular calling rates have changed across the English-speakinhg Caribbean, which in turn would affect the amount spent for that service per month.

Methodology

Calculation of the monthly mobile spend for mobile/cellular service in the region has been guided by the approach set out in the Revised OECD Telecommunications Price Comparison Methodology (2006).  Three service baskets, based on the volume of voice calls, text and multimedia messages, were defined as set out in Table 1.

Table 1: Service baskets used in mobile spend calculations (Source: OECD)

Our exercise focussed primarily on voice and SMS services from the two largest operators per country where applicable, and single operators, where there is still a monopoly in the mobile/cellular market. In the countries where Digicel and LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless) both operated, they were the largest providers, as per Table 2. The exceptions were the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

Table 2: List of mobile operators - November 2011 (Source: ICT Pulse)

The rates used to determine the monthly spend were for the operators’ prepaid service and were sourced primarily from their websites, as at November 2011. Prepaid plans readily provided the inputs for the calculations, and since they are extensively used in the region, they might be more representative of the amounts spent on mobile/cellular service by the average Caribbean resident.

Results

For all levels of usage, the lowest monthly spends were experienced in Guyana, where the amounts ranged from USD 4.28 to USD 25.04 per month. On the other hand, the highest monthly spend for all baskets was recorded in the Cayman Islands, where amounts ranged from USD 23.07 to USD 102.98 per month.

Figure 1: Monthly spend on mobile/cellular service in the select Caribbean countries as at November 2011(Source ICT Pulse)

The Low Volume (LV) user spends on average USD 13.66 per month. Medium Volume (MV) users typically spend USD 32.13 per month, whilst for High Volume (HV) users, their estimated monthly spend is USD 66.16.

How do these results compare with the May snapshot?

Over the last 6 months, half – 8 of the 16 countries – experienced some change in mobile /cellular calling rates, which would affect monthly spend (Figure 2). Of the 8 where adjustments were made, rate increases occurred in 6. With the exception of Guyana, the rate changes were relatively nonimal, and the change in monthly spend was in the range of ± 5%. In the case of Guyana, the amount spent monthly decreased by over 12% across all baskets. Across all countries, there has been a net decrease of approximately 3.5% in the average monthly spend across all pricing baskets.

Figure 2: Percentage difference in the monthly mobile spends between May 2011 and November 2011 (Source ICT Pulse)

Concluding remarks

It is important to highlight that in most countries where rates changes were implemented, they were relatively small: the average person might not have realised they had occurred. However, when the amount spent per month is considered, the adjustment often becomes more apparent. For example, excluding Guyana, changes in the monthly spend ranged from as little as USD 0.08 per month in Dominica for a LV basket of service, which is arguably negligible, to USD 4.59 per month in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a HV basket of services, which is considerably more substantial.

In the instances where mobile rates have increased, they might be attributable to inflationary adjustments, which are generally accepted. In the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is likely that additional costs were being factored in, since the adjustment was in the region of 6.5% when compared with rates from 6 months ago. On the other hand, with regard to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, where lower rates have been implemented, this could be due attempts by the service providers to re-position themselves in the market (particularly in the case of Guyana) by offering more competitive prices.

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