Snapshot: How much are we spending on mobile data plans in the Caribbean?
A brand new snapshot examining mobile/cellular data plans – spend and data caps – in the Caribbean.
The proliferation of mobile/cellular phones in the Caribbean provides citizens in the region with a device through which a variety of telecoms services may be secured. Over the past 10 to 12 years, the focus in most countries has been voice calling – to drive down prices and get them more affordable. However, with prominence of the Internet, greater attention is being paid to the provision of Internet service over mobile/cellular phones. This post examines the pricing and the data limits for mobile/cellular broadband services across the Caribbean.
Data for this review was collected from the websites of mobile/cellular carriers in the countries surveyed (see Table 1). To the extent possible, at least two carriers per country were reviewed. However, it is emphasised that the absence of mobile/cellular providers from this assessment was due to fact the requisite information was not available on their websites.
The review focussed on pre-paid mobile/cellular data plans, since pre-paid mobile/cellular service predominates considerably over post-paid plans in the Caribbean. The data plan size, validity period of the plan and price for pre-paid mobile data services were recorded as of 4 June 2013, and were used to conduct the following comparisons:
- the smallest data plan available per country and the corresponding lowest price
- the largest data plan available per country and the corresponding lowest price
- the price for a 1 GB data plan and the price per MB
- the largest data plan that can be purchased for no more than USD 20.00.
The prices were converted to United States Dollars (USD) when required, based on current commercial exchange rates. Applicable taxes, such as Value Added Tax (VAT) or General Consumption Tax (GCT), have also been included.
It is also noted that no distinction was made between data plans based on “3G” and “4G” technologies. Many providers do not publish that information online; they offer “mobile/cellular data services” and tend not to offer customers a choice of technology from which to choose. Typically, providers upgrade their mobile/cellular data infrastructure, and outside of advertising and marketing purposes, consumers may not be aware of whether the service is “3G” or “4G”.
What are the May 2013 results?
The sizes and prices of mobile/cellular data plans across the Caribbean vary considerable not only from country to country, but also between service providers. Table 2 below highlights the largest and smallest mobile/cellular data plans in the countries under review, and the corresponding best rates offered for those packages.
The smallest mobile/cellular data plan is 1 MB, which is valid for one day, and is offered in Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. In half of the countries surveyed, the smallest data plan offered is 10 MB, which again is valid for only one day. On the other hand, the largest data plan, 7 GB for 30 days (1 month), is offered in Barbados, British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands. In all countries save Guyana, the largest plan is at least 1 GB.
Figure 1 shows the best price for a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan. It is highlighted that Guyana and Jamaica do not appear in this exercise. The Guyana carrier’s largest data plan is only 400MB, whilst both providers assessed in Jamaica do not offer 1 GB plan (but plans greater than and less than 1 GB are available).
The lowest rate for a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan is USD 7.00 in Barbados, which is less than a third of the most expensive plan, at USD 30.00, in the Bahamas. The average price across the countries assessed is USD 20.61.
Figure 2 shows the price per MB, using the 1 GB plan as the reference, where 1 GB = 1,024 MB. Similar to Figure 1, the order of the countries remains unchanged. The price per MB ranges from approximately USD 0.007 per MB in Barbados and USD 0.010 in Trinidad and Tobago, to USD 0.0025 per MB in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 0.026 per MB in British Virgin Islands and 0.029 per MB in the Bahamas. Across the sample countries, the average is USD 0.020 per MB.
For the largest mobile/cellular data plan available for under USD 20.00, Barbados offers the best plan – 3 GB for up to 30 days (see Figure 3). The worst plan is offered in Turks and Caicos Islands, where the best plan for that price 100 MB for one day.
In at least five countries, a 1 GB plan is available for under USD 20.00, but in two of them, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the plan would only be valid for up to 7 days. However, in at nine countries, including Turks and Caicos Islands, plans less than 1 GB are priced under USD 20.00, and their validity periods vary between 7 and 30 days
The above review of mobile/cellular broadband data pricing in the Caribbean is our first in what will be a regular exercise conducted at least once per year, in keeping with most of our other Snapshot posts. Hence this review will be our baseline against which future assessments will be compared.
With regard to this current exercise, it is important to highlight that pricing and data plan sizes vary drastically between prepaid and post-paid plans. With regard to the latter, their validity is typically for a month, with few options (if any) for a shorter time frame. However, some mobile/cellular post-paid plans might include, in addition to a provision for broadband Internet, free calling time, free text messaging and other services for a flat rate, which can make them quite attractive to consumers.
Although services providers are offering prepaid mobile/cellular data plans with a broad range in data limits and pricing, some of the smaller data caps (e.g. less than 500 MB per month) might not be practical for current consumer behaviour and expectations with mobile/cellular devices, along with current technology. For example, data caps must not only accommodate a customer’s direct use and need for Internet access – e.g. to surf the web, check emails, or communicate on social networks – the applications themselves are also transmitting information in background, which does deplete the data cap. Hence, there could be an argument made that as designed, there might be an impetus, for customers to consider purchasing larger (and more expensive) data plans, to better accommodate their Internet needs.