Snapshot: 2014 update on mobile data affordability in the Caribbean

Following our recent discussion on our updated mobile/cellular data spend, we examine the affordability of that service across the Caribbean.

In our recent Snapshot: 2014 update on mobile data spend in the Caribbean , we reviewed mobile/cellular data plans from across 17 Caribbean countries to determine and compare the amounts being spent. Using the information collected in that exercise, we now examine the affordability of those plans, and briefly discuss whether or not, or the extent to which, mobile/cellular data plans have become more affordable across the region.

Approach

Having examined monthly prices by prepaid mobile/cellular customers for mobile/cellular Internet data plans, this review focuses on the affordability of those plans. The prices captured in the mobile/cellular data spend exercise have been examined against estimated monthly income, for which per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, sourced from the International Monetary Fund and United Nations, have been used as proxies for the former. The resulting ratios, which have been expressed as percentages, indicate the proportion of a person’s income that would be spent on the stated plan, and hence indicate the extent to which it might be affordable to the average consumer.

In this assessment, we considered the affordability of prepaid mobile/cellular data plans with 1, 2 and 3 GB data caps. We also compared 2013 and 2014 results for a 1 GB data cap The results are presented and discussed in the sections below,

How affordable are mobile/cellular data plans in 2014?

The proportion of a person’s monthly income that could be spent on mobile/cellular data service varied widely across the Caribbean region. Figure 1, shows the percentage of a person’s monthly income that could be spent on mobile/cellular data service with cap of 1 GB. The proportion of income consumed ranged from approximately 0.5% in Barbados, to around 3.7% in Belize. The average proportion of a typical monthly income among the countries assessed was 1.3%.

Portion of monthly income consumed by a mobile broadband plan with a 1 GB data cap 014
Figure 1: Portion of monthly income consumed by a mobile/cellular data plan with a 1 GB cap in select Caribbean countries as at July 2014 (Source: ICT Pulse)

It should be noted again that Guyana and Haiti have been excluded from this 1 GB data cap review. As was noted in our mobile/cellular data spend snapshot, both of those countries do not offer a discrete 1 GB data plan. In the case of Guyana, 1 GB exceeds the largest data plan offered by the carrier studied, whilst in the case of Haiti, none of the carriers offered that particular plan, although larger ones were available.

For the most part, a mobile/cellular data plan with a 1 GB cap is a standard offering in the Caribbean. Outside that plan, the service offerings tend to vary widely. However, since our 2013 review, more countries are offering a plan with a 2 GB data cap, whilst a few of them offer a 3 MB data plan as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Percentage of monthly income expended on mobile/cellular data plans with a 2 GB and a 3 GB cap in select Caribbean countries as at July 2014 (Source: ICT Pulse)
Figure 2: Percentage of monthly income expended on mobile/cellular data plans with a 2 GB and a 3 GB cap in select Caribbean countries as at July 2014 (Source: ICT Pulse)

For a 2 GB data cap, the smallest proportion of spend against income is likely to be realised in the Cayman Islands, at approximately 0.7%, whilst the largest share of income among the sample group was recorded in Belize, at approximately 6.0% of monthly income. Averaged across the countries, approximately 2.1% of a person’s monthly income would be spent on a mobile/cellular data plan with a 2 GB cap.

For a mobile/cellular data plan with a 3 GB cap, only five countries offer that specific plan. The proportion of monthly income for a 3 GB plan, ranged from approximately 1.6% in Saint Kitts and Nevis, to around 4.7% in Jamaica. On average across the five countries, a 3 GB plan would account for approximately 2.1% of the average person’s monthly income.

Comparing the 2013 and 2014 results

Since our last review of the affordability of mobile/cellular data plans (June 2013), their percentages of monthly spend, have fallen across most of the countries examined. Between 2013 and 2014, smallest difference in the percentage of a month’s income spent on a 1 GB plan, was recorded in Barbados, 0.1%, whilst the greatest difference, 2.7%, was in recorded in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Portion of monthly income expended on a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan in select Caribbean countries 2013 and 2014 (Source: ICT Pulse)
Figure 3: Portion of monthly income expended on a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan in select Caribbean countries 2013 and 2014 (Source: ICT Pulse)

On the other hand, slight increases in the percentage of monthly spend on a 1 GB plan were recorded in Suriname (<0.1%), the British Virgin Islands (0.2%), and the Turks and Caicos Islands (0.2%).

A few thoughts…

As was observed in our recent 2014 update on monthly spend on mobile/cellular data plans, generally, prices have fallen over the past year, which in some respect, is reflected in Figure 3. However, it is important to highlight that in virtually all countries included in this exercise, per capita GDP (which has been used as a proxy for average annual income in a country) increased, albeit marginally in most countries. Nevertheless, that increase would affect, i.e. lower, the percentage of monthly income calculated as being spent on mobile/cellular data plans.

Further, and as was done in last year’s exercise, it is again important to highlight that in the majority of instances, mobile/cellular data would be an add-on service – in addition to the standard voice and text message services. Hence customers would already be paying for those basic capabilities, and therefore an even larger portion of their monthly income would be consumed on mobile/cellular services, when mobile/cellular data is included.

 

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