World Wide Web of Inequality: New Study Reveals the Most and Least Affordable Countries for Mobile and Broadband Data

Internet connection is now central to economic prosperity, job opportunities, and forging meaningful social connections. In fact, some world leaders believe internet access is no longer a privilege but a human right.

It will be interesting to see where this conversation takes us over the coming years. Free internet for everyone? We'll have to wait and see.

But for now, the internet is still a utility that we have to pay for. And not all broadband plans are equal, meaning we're still a long way from equal access for all.

So which countries are doing the best job of providing fast and affordable broadband? And where are high prices and affordability issues contributing to what many commentators call a global digital divide?

The research team at Electronics Hub decided to unpack these important questions in its latest study on global internet access. By crunching data collected from and the World Bank, it ranked every country in the world in terms of mobile data and broadband affordability.

Here's a summary of the results.

Mobile data and broadband affordability in every country in the world

Mobile data and broadband connectivity is super affordable in Israel. A 10GB data plan, which is more than enough for most users connected all month, costs just 0.01% of the national average salary. No other country included in the study could beat that price.

Why is mobile data in Israel so cheap?

Israel has several major broadband and telecom providers and a relatively small population. This means companies have to get competitive when it comes to price to attract and keep customers.

Then there's innovation. Israel is a major tech player in developing new technologies that provide high-speed broadband connections faster and cheaper than ever before. These innovations have increased the efficiency of service and coverage across the country while also lowering prices for consumers.

Italy and France are two more countries where a 10GB monthly package costs just a fraction of the average salary. Italians have to allocate just 0.04% of their monthly paycheck to cover their mobile data plan. It's a little bit more expensive for those living in France, but not by much. In France, the price of 10GB of mobile data equals 0.07% of an average salary. What a great deal. Or, as the French like to say, "Quelle bonne affaire."

Countries with the most expensive mobile data compared to local salaries

There's a very different story across the African continent, where the price of a 10MB data pack can be 300% more than the local average salary.

For example, people in Zimbabwe have to pay 356% more than the average salary for a monthly data plan offering 10GB. And broadband doesn't get much cheaper in The Central African Republic, where locals have to spend 334% of their salary if they want a 10GB data plan.

Six of the remaining eight countries in the top 10 list for most expensive broadband are in Africa. They include Zambia, Liberia, Mali, and Burundi.

But why are prices so high? It comes down to a combination of several factors, including a lack of competition and investment, as well as political and socio economic instability. There are also serious geographical challenges. Africa is a vast and rugged continent, with large sparsely populated areas, making building and maintaining telecommunications networks costly and not particularly profitable.

But there are signs that connectivity across the continent will improve over the coming decade, widening coverage and driving down prices.

Elon Musk's Starlink is one of the many companies looking at ways to provide cheaper broadband access to Africa. And Kuiper Systems is also doing some very important work. A subsidiary of Amazon, Kuiper Systems is an ambitious initiative on a mission to provide fast and affordable broadband internet to everyone on the planet via a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). This constellation would work similarly to other satellite internet systems, providing coverage to regions across Africa where traditional infrastructure is difficult or costly to implement.

Broadband price relative to download speeds

This second part of the Electronics Hub study threw up some somewhat surprising results. It shows that in terms of price per 1GB of Broadband, Romania is the cheapest place overall for broadband connection. It's a country where 1GB, which is enough data for web browsing and around 1 hour of streaming, costs just $0.01. That's super cheap broadband.

Other countries where 1GB costs just a few cents are Thailand ($0.02), Italy ($0.03), and Moldova ($0.03).

Once again, an African country tops the most expensive list for broadband. In Eritrea, just 1GB of data can cost $338, making internet access unaffordable and inaccessible to the vast majority of the population. In fact, this is a country where internet access and broadband data are privileges of the elite. Data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other sources suggest that as little as 1% to 2% of the population has regular access to the internet.

The rest of this list comprises small island nations where it's extremely difficult (and expensive) to build and manage digital infrastructure. Some of those countries include The Marshall Islands, where 1GB of data is 'worth' $142, and Saint Helena, where locals have to pay over $38 for 1GB of broadband connectivity.

The affordability of the average broadband plan all around the world

Price is one thing. But what really counts is affordability. For example, $10 a month for broadband doesn't sound expensive. However, it becomes completely unaffordable if you only earn around $300 annually, which is the average salary in countries like Malawi and Burundi.

So the third and final part of the study examined the cost of an annual broadband plan compared to the average local salary in every country.

Some familiar names emerged as the most affordable places for broadband, with Romania and Israel sharing the top two spots. In both cases, the price of 12 months' worth of mobile data costs less than 1% of the average national salary.

This map also revealed the biggest and most shocking statistic about broadband affordability. If the average person in Burundi wants a 12-month data package, they would have to pay an annual subscription that’s 2,935X the national average salary, or roughly $5,870 per year. And you thought your broadband deal was getting more expensive.

Read next: Analytical Thinking, Creativity in Jobs Benefit Long-Term Brain Health, Research Shows

Previous Post Next Post