Snapshot: Caribbean mobile/cellular spend update 2012

This is a 2012 update to our mobile/cellular spend Snapshot, to determine the extent to which persons’ monthly spend on mobile/cellular services have changed across the English-speaking Caribbean.

In many recognised telecoms/IT assessments that aim to provide an indication of competitiveness and/or the likelihood of persons being able to afford certain services, price comparisons are frequently integral to the exercise.  For example, in our 2012 Snapshot of network readiness, as conducted by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, mobile cellular tariffs and fixed broadband Internet tariffs were two of the key measures used to gauge affordability under the Readiness Index.

In May 2011, we provided a snapshot of monthly spend for mobile/cellular services based on pre-defined baskets of services, and provided a six-month update in November of that year. In this post and one year later, we are again looking at the extent to which mobile/cellular rates have changes across the English-speaking Caribbean, which in turn would affect the amount spent for those services per month.


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

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

Our calculation of monthly spend across the Caribbean used the prepaid rates advertised by the two largest mobile/cellular operators per country, where applicable, and single operators, where there is still a monopoly in the market (see Table 2).  Those rates were sourced primarily from the operators’ websites, as at May 2012.

Table 2: List of mobile operators – May 2012 (Source: ICT Pulse)

Prepaid plans readily provided the inputs for the calculations, unlike post-paid plans, where a number of services are often bundled together and offered at a flat rate. More importantly, the majority of mobile/cellular customers across the region are prepaid subscribers, hence the impact of those rates on monthly spend by the average Caribbean customer might be better reflected.

What are the May 2012 results?

For all baskets of usage, the lowest monthly spends would be experienced in Guyana, where the amounts ranged from USD 5.35 per month for Low Volume (LV) users, USD 13.80 per month for a Medium Volume (MV) users to USD 31.30 per month for High Volume (HV) users. On the other hand, the highest monthly spend across all baskets was recorded in the Cayman Islands, where amounts ranged from USD 23.23 to USD 107.08 per month.

Figure 1: Monthly spend on mobile/cellular service in select Caribbean countries as at May 2012 (Source: ICT Pulse)

Some additional observations:

  • Across the region, LV users would spend on average USD 13.87 per month, and a number of countries are within ±USD 2.00 of that amount – Grenada (USD 11.95), Saint Kitts & Nevis (USD 12.89), Saint Lucia (USD 13.29), Anguilla (USD 13.48), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (USD 14.72), and Antigua and Barbuda (USD 14.77).
  • On the other hand, MV users across the region would spend on average USD 32.61 per month, but it is only Anguilla (USD 31.48) and Saint Lucia (USD 31.97) where the calculated monthly spends are close (±USD 2.00) to that amount.
  • Finally, for HV users, their average monthly spend across the region would be USD 67.02, and it is only in Saint Lucia, with an estimated monthly spend of USD 67.71, which is closest to that amount.

How do these results compare with our earlier snapshots?

Over the last year, there have been noticeable changes in the monthly spends across the three baskets of services as shown in Figure 2.  Across 11 of the 16 countries reviewed, monthly spend increased by as low as 0.3% in Saint Kitts and Nevis, to by almost 10% in Guyana.

Figure 2: Percentage change in the monthly spends between May 2011 and May 2012 in select Caribbean countries (Source ICT Pulse)

On the other hand, it is only for two countries that decreases in monthly spend was recorded– Belize, where spend dropped by 2.3% across all baskets of services, and Trinidad and Tobago, where the change ranged from 2.6% for a LV basket, to 3.7% for a HV basket of service. Across the sample group there was a net decrease in spend ranging between 3.2% and 3.6% across all baskets of services.

Final remarks

In examining monthly spend, as opposed to comparing the individual rates payable for calling and messaging services in each country, and across the three main time bands (day, evenings and weekends), we are able to provide a more comprehensive picture of changes that are occurring in mobile/cellular markets. As reflected in the previous section, the percentage changes in spend from May 2011 to May 2012 for the most part have been small. However, the impact of those changes might not be readily apparent when dealing with smaller figures. For example a 10% increase in a calling rate of $0.10, is $0.11, which might easily be overlooked. However, the same 10% increase in the amount spent per month, say $50.00, is $55.00, which adds an extra $60 per year to your bill!

Finally, it is important to highlight that the percentage change in monthly spend that has occurred between May 2011 and May 2012, generally reflects commensurate changes in the average monthly rates in the respective countries. Although there might be some expectation that changes in currency exchange rates – to convert all figures to USD – would have an impact on the final figures presented, exchange rates with in the Caribbean have remained relatively stable since May 2011, thus having minimal to no effect on this exercise.