Snapshot: Internet speeds and prices in the Caribbean
This post updates our May 2011 findings on Internet speed and how much is spent on Internet service across the Caribbean.
Internet, specifically broadband, is increasingly becoming the norm worldwide. The transmission speeds possible are opening up vast opportunities, which we have begun to experience, thanks to the convergence of voice, data and video onto a single platform. Across the Caribbean, the Internet has become an essential medium in the business and corporate sectors, but many countries are still challenged to have the service affordable and accessible to all of their citizens.
This snapshot is a follow up from our May 2011 assessment of Internet speed and prices across the English-speaking Caribbean. Based on how critical Internet service has (and will continue to) become across the region, it is valuable to regularly monitor how prices and transmission speeds are changing, in order to gauge how soon we might be able to close the digital divide and create the enabling environment for an Information Society.
Data for this review was collected from the websites of widely used Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the countries covered. To the extent possible, at least two ISPs were examined in each country (Table 1), and the exercise was limited to non-dialup Internet services and to service plans for domestic/residential customers.
The offerings from the ISPs varied drastically in respect of transmission speeds, hence the exercise was limited to identifying (per country):
- the lowest download speed available and the corresponding monthly rate
- the highest download speed available and the corresponding monthly rate
- the monthly rate for a 2 Mbps service plan and its affordability to the average consumer.
Under ITU standards, between 1.5 and 2 Mbps is considered the threshold speed for classifying an Internet service as broadband. Hence 2 Mbps has been used as a baseline reference to compare rates across the countries under review.
Finally, it is emphasised that the review focused on the monthly rates payable for specified Internet plans only. The exercise excluded initial subscription and activation fees, as well as any additional monthly charges that might be applicable. The rates were converted to United States Dollars (USD) when required, based on going commercial exchange rates. Applicable taxes have also been included.
As reflected in Table 2 below, the minimum download speeds offered in most countries is 1 Mbps, with the exception of Belize, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, where Internet packages with download speeds as low as 128 kbps are still available. Almost 70% of the sample offers broadband packages with an advertised download speed of 8 Mbps and up.
Since our last review in May 2011, Belize has increased the number of plans it has available and now includes one with an advertised of 4Mbps. However, the price for that plan is the highest charged across the entire sample, and is over twice that charged in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a 4.4 Mbps broadband plan.
It is important to highlight that over the last 6 months a few ISPs have lowered their rates considerably and/or have improved their offerings in terms of downs speeds. The most drastic change has been observed with Marpin in Dominica, which has rebranded itself. Further, since the May 2011 review, Marpin is no longer offering 64 kbps to 192 kbps plans (the latter being the highest plan offered). Its minimum offering is now 3.5 Mbps and its maximum is 5.5 Mbps.
For an Internet plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps, the monthly rate payable varied drastically across the region, as shown in Figure 1. The lowest advertised price is USD 29.21 in Grenada, whilst the highest is USD 84.00 in the British Virgin Islands. The average price across the region is USD 67.80.
It should be noted that for illustration purposes, Belize has been omitted from the graph. The monthly price payable for a 2 Mbps plan is USD 256.50, which might still be beyond the budgets of most households, and would distort the graph.
What has changed since May 2011?
As indicated in the previous section, across the Caribbean there have been a few changes in the monthly rates payables, but also download speeds available. However, they are not necessarily reflected in the pricing for an Internet plan with an advertised download speed of 2 Mbps. The only countries where changes for 2 Mbps plan have occurred in the last 6 months are:
- Barbados, where rates increased by USD 1.47 (+2.18% change)
- Anguilla, where rates decreased by USD 13.62 (-20.44% change)
- Dominica, where rates decreased by USD 1.47 (-29.5% change)
Excluding Belize, the average price across the region for a 2 Mbps plan has decreased to USD 54.33, which represents a 5.2% (USD 2.97) difference since May 2011.
In our earlier review we compared the average price for a 2 Mbps plan in the Caribbean against the median prices for a 2.5 Mbps plan in select OECD countries. Although the recent reduction in the average price for a 2 Mbps plan across the region is welcomed, it is still significantly higher (over 50%) than those in OECD countries sampled. It therefore means that we still have a considerable way to go before our rates are comparable to those in developing countries.