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UK Consumers Suffer Meagre 4G Mobile Broadband Data Allowances vs EU

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 (2:30 pm) - Score 1,453

A new report from Point Topic has revealed significant variations in 4G based (Mobile Broadband) pricing and usage caps across Europe, with consumers in the United Kingdom paying less for their monthly tariffs but often receiving fairly meagre data allowances in return.

Take note that the telecoms analyst has used $US Dollars for their report and applied a measure of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which allows them to make direct comparisons of tariffs across the world by adjusting the local currency and exchange rate to make the buying power of $1 (PPP) in country A equal to $1 (PPP) in country B (note:£1 = $1.30 at today’s rate).


The study found that the average monthly charge for residential 4G (LTE) services varied from a high of $54 in Cyprus to just $22 in Italy, with the United Kingdom sitting in the cheaper half of the table on $30. However the UK’s lower average charge also reflected a lower average usage allowance and vice versa for some other providers.

Put another way, the average monthly data allowance (GigaBytes) in the UK appears to reside at somewhere around 10GB and that’s in the bottom third of the table (see below). By comparison the average in Finland is closer to 450GB and people in that country only spend an average of $34 per month on their 4G tariffs. It’s a similar story for Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

We note that Point Topic’s study only includes SIM-Only 4G data tariffs and those bundled with a modem (no tariffs bundled with other devices such as Tablets or Smartphones are included), which is apparently done because it makes their “analysis more comparable with fixed broadband services which are not normally bundled with PCs and laptops.”

By way of an actual comparison, the figure of $30 equates to about £22 per month. On Vodafone that would get you a 15GB SIM-Only data allowance and it’s also closest to the 20GB tier on Three UK, while EE will similarly do about 15GB for the same sort of money.


Perhaps unsurprisingly the above result also carries a direct association with the average cost per GB of data, which means that Finland, Switzerland and Austria pay less than every other country in the study (around $0.10 cents vs $2 per GB in the UK).


However we should stress that country to country comparison like this are very simplistic and don’t offer a detailed picture of each local market, where different geographies, network maturity, regulation, spectrum ownership, underlying infrastructure and levels of investment may have a significant role to play. Take with a pinch of salt.

Nevertheless it could perhaps be argued that 4G LTE subscribers in Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia are being offered monthly data volumes comparable to those used by many subscribers of a fixed broadband package. The UK is clearly a long way off being able to achieve something similar but then we were also much later to the 4G deployment party than a lot of other EU states (thanks to all that legal fighting over spectrum).

Finally, Point Topic also offers up a table showing the theoretical average downstream speed of residential 4G services in each country, which puts the UK near the bottom, albeit on a little over 100Mbps. However this appears to be based more on headline or theoretical capability than actual performance, which isn’t much use.


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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar MikeHunt

    So 1TB usage limit for £29 p/m with Three is expensive?

    • Avatar Mark

      Isn’t that just for mobile usage, tethering has a cap of 30GB? I can’t wait for the day when 4G becomes a viable alternative to fixed broadband. I’d happily pay the same amount for a connection that hits the advertised speed – none of this up to rubbish, even if it’s throttled in the evening – I can live with that. Just as long as the usage cap isn’t too silly, 500GB/1TB sounds fair to me.

    • Avatar MikeHunt

      Officially ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  2. Avatar MikeW

    Still paying off the debts of the 3G auction, then…

  3. Avatar Chris P

    So this is a study of 4G mobile broadband usage. I assume that in those nations with high usage and low costs the mobile 4g modem offering is more compelling due to geography or other factors that make it easier for BB to be delivered over 4G. It would be interesting to see a comparison against fixed BB, i.e usage vs speed, vs cost vs number of subscribers and also of satisfaction.

    We will be seeing much more of a 4G modem mix here in the uk over the coming years.

  4. Avatar Les Morrison

    I was in Dublin during the summer holidays, and paid 20 euros for an unlimited data SIM from EE.
    Just paid EE GB, which is apparently a separate company £30 for 15 GB data valid for 90 days – when I queried the difference in pricing and data allowance I was told EE GB invested more money to give a better service, so had to charge more for less!

    • Avatar Mike

      I think you mean Three, EE doesn’t exist in Ireland, also their data package isn’t really unlimited, it has a soft cap of 60GB, whereas Three UK has a 1TB soft cap.

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