South Africa ranks 143 out of 230 countries for the cheapest data prices, research has revealed.
A study by Cable.co.uk, a site which compares broadband prices, analysed 6 313 mobile data plans in 230 countries to compare the cost of one gigabyte of mobile data. The study was conducted in October and November 2018.
The main findings show that the cheapest country to buy mobile data is India. The average price for 1GB is $0.26 (about R3.70).
The most expensive country to buy mobile data is Zimbabwe, with the average price for standing at 1GB at $75.20 (about R1070.20).
The global average for 1GB was $8.53 (about R121.37).
The cost of buying 1GB in South Africa, on average, amounts to $7.19 (about R102.31), according to the study. A total of 58 plans were measured in SA, and data was collected on November 22, 2018. The price of 1GB for the cheapest plan available is R9.99 ($0.71) and the price of 1GB of the most expensive plan available was R496.67 ($35.06).
Mobile much cheaper than broadband
The study also showed that 10 out of the top 50 cheapest countries in the world for mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"This is in stark contrast to the cost of broadband on the continent, which is almost universally very high or non-existent," the report read.
"Rwanda and Sudan feature in the top ten, with 1GB of data costing just $0.56 (about R7.97) and $0.68 (about R9.68)."
On the flipside, four of the five most expensive countries to buy mobile data are in sub-Saharan Africa.
What makes data cheap?
Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, explained that many of the cheapest countries fall into two categories. "Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte.
"Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford," he explained.
Countries with long-established, abundant 4G infrastructure often offer cheap data. Their mobile data plans extend beyond 1GB to 5GB per month and so offer plans with caps in the "hundreds of gigabytes" or which are unlimited, the report read. India and Finland are examples of countries which fall in this category.
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are examples of countries with exceptionally high demand for data, despite poor infrastructure. "With a saturated market and many competing providers, often accompanied by a low average wage, data pricing in such countries can be exceptionally cheap when compared globally," the report read.
Often, in countries where data is most expensive, it is due to a combination of having poor infrastructure and low consumer demand. "People often buy data packages of just tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy," he said.
"Many countries in the middle of the list have good infrastructure and competitive mobile markets, and while their prices aren’t among the cheapest in the world they wouldn’t necessarily be considered expensive by their consumers," Howdle explained.