Snapshot: Caribbean mobile/cellular spend update 2017
A 2017 update of our mobile/cellular spend Snapshot, to determine the extent to which mobile/cellular calling rates have changed across the Caribbean since 2015.
Since 2011, we, at ICT Pulse, have been sharing some insights on the likely monthly spend for mobile/cellular services in the Caribbean based on pre-defined baskets of services. In this our latest exercise, we have covered 21 Caribbean countries, and again have limited our review to mobile/cellular calling rates. Thereafter, we examined the extent to which calling rates have changed since our last exercise, the results of which were published in June 2015.
For our review of the monthly spend for mobile/cellular service in the Caribbean, we continue to use the approach presented in the Revised OECD Telecommunications Price Comparison Methodology (2006). The methodology sets out three service baskets, shown in Table 1, which suggest the volume of voice calls, text messages (SMS), and multimedia messages (MMS) generated by hypothetical users.
Due to the uneven availability of SMS and MMS rates across the countries examined, we have limited our review and calculations to the prepaid calling rates advertised by the two largest mobile/cellular operators per country, where possible, and for which data is available. Table 2 lists the mobile/cellular operators included in this assessment. The rates used were sourced from the operators’ websites, as at 4 September 2017.
The monthly spend on mobile/cellular voice calls, based on the service baskets in Table 1, was calculated in the local currency and then converted to United States Dollars (USD), using currency exchange rates as at 5 September 2017.
2017 monthly spend results
Using the mobile/cellular calls volumes stated for the three baskets of usage, first we compared the hypothetical monthly spend on mobile/cellular calls only, i.e. calls made on the same network; calls made to other mobile/cellular networks and calls made to the fixed-line network. The results are presented in Figure 1.
For all call volumes, the lowest monthly spends, as of 4 September 2017, was in Jamaica, where the amounts ranged from USD 1.94 per month for Low Volume (LV) users, USD 4.99 per month for a Medium Volume (MV) users, to USD 10.86 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 18.89 to USD 105.63 per month. Additionally, for mobile/cellular calls only across the region, on average:
- LV users, who would make around 30 calls per month, would spend approximately USD 48 per month
- MV users,who would make around 65 calls per month, would spend approximately USD 50 per month
- HV users,who would make around 140 calls per month, would spend approximately USD 63 per month.
How does the 2017 spend results compare with those for 2015?
Over the past two years, there have been some noticeable changes in the monthly spend for mobile/cellular voice calls across the countries examined, as shown in Figure 2. With the exception of the Bahamas, all of the countries examined experienced some change in price, which also reflects directly on the calling rates established by the local mobile/cellular operators.
Between June 2015 and September 2017, the following changes in monthly spend were recorded:
- for the LV basket of services, the change in mobile/cellular spend ranged from approximately -19.4% in Belize (a decrease), to just over doubling (+109.0%) in Suriname
- for the MV basket of services, spend changes ranged from a drop of over -19.4% in Belize, to an increase of over +108.7% in Suriname; and
- for the HV basket of services, the change in monthly spend ranged from a decrease of around -19.3% in Belize, to increasing by +108.5% in Suriname.
Further, attention is drawn to the fact in Suriname and for all calling baskets, the estimated spend has doubled over the past two years. Based on the data available, the rates charged for prepaid voice calls – outside of a calling plan – have doubled. For example, and on the Digicel network, on network calls were SRD 0.737 in June 2015, but are now SRD 1.40 (where SRD is Suriname Dollars).
As we had noted in our last mobile/cellular spend snapshot, the rates for mobile/cellular calls in the Caribbean have been increasing. The trend has remained unchanged in this current review.
However, it must be highlighted that increasingly, Caribbean mobile/cellular operators are offering a broad range of attractive calling plans, that bundle calling minutes, SMS messages and even data, for fixed price. These plans tend to be considerably more cost-effective than purchasing the standalone services outside of a plan. Hence, most individuals are likely to subscribe to a particular plan, in order to benefit from the savings that can be realised.
In that regard, it is entirely possible that the standalone mobile/cellular calling rates, which have been the focus of our review, are being kept deliberately high, to not only drive calling plan subscription take-up, but also for the mobile/cellular operators to maintain their attractiveness and competitiveness. Further, most Caribbean countries have only two mobile/cellular operators, and the local telecoms regulators tend to employ an arms-length approach with respect to price setting for that segment of the market. As a result, the operators can set their mobile/cellular rates without requiring regulatory approval, and in a duopoly environment, that dynamic may not necessarily lead to highly competitive behaviour that drives down prices.
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