Snapshot: 2014 update on mobile data spend in the Caribbean
A 2014 update on how much is being spent on mobile/cellular data plans – prices and data caps – in the Caribbean.
With relatively healthy competition and attractive prices in the mobile/cellular voice segment of the Caribbean markets, increasingly, the focus for both the telecoms companies and policymakers has been shifting to mobile/cellular broadband data. As a result, there has been a growing emphasis on increasing take-up and use of that service. In this the second year of our review of mobile/cellular broadband data plans across the Caribbean, we examine the prices and the data limits in 17 countries, and compare then with our 2013 results.
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 data providers from this assessment was due to fact that the requisite information was not available on their websites.
The review focussed on pre-paid mobile/cellular data plans, since pre-paid subscriptions far exceed post-paid subscriptions in the Caribbean. The data plan size, validity period of the plan and price for pre-paid mobile data services were recorded as of 7 July 2014, 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
- 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 Many providers do not publish that information online; they offer “mobile/cellular data services” and tend not to offer customers a choice of technology from which to choose.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”.
The sizes and prices of mobile/cellular data plans across the Caribbean varied considerably not only from country to country, but also between service providers. Table 2 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 in the region, 1 MB, which is valid for one day, and is offered in Trinidad and Tobago. In all but one of the countries surveyed, the smallest data plan is 100 MB and under; the exception is Saint Kitts and Nevis, where the smallest data plan is 500 MB, but they all expire within one day.
On the other hand, in two countries, Anguilla and Belize, uncapped data plans are available for up to one month. The next largest data plans were recorded in Haiti at 15 GB for a month, and Saint Lucia, where a 10.5 GB data plan is also offered for up to one month.
Figure 1 shows the best price for a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan across 15 Caribbean countries. It should be noted that Guyana and Haiti have not been included in this exercise. The mobile/cellular carrier in Haiti did not specifically offer a 1 GB data plan; and in the case of Guyana, the 1 GB requirement exceeded the plans offered by the mobile/cellular carrier examined.
The lowest rate for a 1 GB mobile/cellular data plan is approximately USD 5.56, which was recorded in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The most expensive plan, at approximately USD 27.78, was found in Antigua and Barbuda. The average price across the countries assessed is USD 17.67.
Figure 2 shows the best mobile/cellular data plan for under USD 20.00, with the size of the bubbles providing some indication of duration of the plans. For the largest mobile/cellular data plan available for under USD 20.00, Saint Kitts and Nevis offers the most attractive plan – 3 GB for up to 30 day, for around USD 18.15. The smallest plan, 300 MB for seven days, is offered in the British Virgin Islands, at about USD 10.00.
How does the 2014 results compare with those from 2013?
Across the Caribbean and since May 2013, a number of changes have occurred in the mobile/cellular Internet space, both in terms of price and the data plans available. Generally:
- the number of plans have increased
- data caps have also increased, and
- prices have lowered, potentially offering consumers a wider choice to suit their needs and budgets.
In 2013, the smallest data plan for around half of the sample was 10MB; in 2014, only three countries still have that amount as their lowest cap. Currently, a cap of at least 20 MB would be considered the norm. Similarly, the largest specified data plan in 2013 was 7 GB, but it was not unusual for 1GB to be the largest plan available. In 2014, mobile/cellular carriers are offering 10.5 GB and 15 GB, and plans of 3MB and over would be considered the norm.
In Figure 3, which compares the 2014 prices for 1 GB data plan with those from 2013, a drop in price was recording in half of the countries examined. The decrease experienced ranged between 14% and 69% from 2013 prices.
On a separate note, many of the mobile/cellular carriers are offering relatively attractive small-to-medium- sized data caps, for example in the 100 MB—500 MB range, but their durations are for periods of less than a month; typically one or seven days. Those very short term plans are perhaps geared toward international visitors and persons requiring a relatively large data cap for a short period of time. However, they are likely to be of limited utility to the average resident, who might be better served by a 30-day plan. It therefore suggests that by default, the providers are “pushing” customers to subscribe for plans with what might be a considerably larger data cap than they want, need or can comfortably afford.