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No. 2 in the World!

… for most expensive internet

In a report published last week by the South American business analysis website BN Americas, it was stated that the Falkland Islands has the most expensive mobile data in South America, and the second-most-expensive in the world.

In a run-down of data costs carried out by British price-comparison firm over the months of April and May this year, over 5000 mobile data plans were analysed, worldwide.

BN Americas’ focus was on the 1000 or so price plans available in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

According to Cable, in Central America one gigabyte of mobile data costs, on average, £1.55.* Caribbean prices are significantly higher, at £2.85 on average; but even the Cayman Islands, the most expensive of the group, costs little more than £8.50 per gigabyte.

South America is more expensive again, averaging £3.38 across the region. Prices in Uruguay (22p), Colombia (41p) and Chile (42p) are among the cheapest in the world; but the stats are skewed for the entire continent almost solely because in the Falkland Islands, 1GB of mobile data costs, on average, almost £32. Across the rest of South America, it was considered notable if prices exceeded 83 pence – or US$1 – per gigabyte.

Numbers provided by local monopoly telecoms-provider Sure suggest the cost of mobile data in the Falklands is actually even higher. On a pay-as-you-go SIM, the cost of 1GB of mobile data would be £40, the same as the (£40) medium contract package which includes 1GB of data along with 350 minutes and 70 texts. (Sure were not able to tell us what that data was worth separated from the other items.)

Either way, this makes the Falklands the second-most-expensive mobile data market in the world – only two pounds cheaper per gigabyte than St Helena. These costs are well over double the price paid in the 4th-placed South Pacific atoll of Tokelau, and 5th-placed war-torn Yemen. Top-of-the-table Israel charges 3.3 pence per gigabyte, 1000 times less expensive than the Falkland Islands. At 12p per gigabyte, even the remote island nation of Fiji is more than 265 times cheaper.

BN Americas also suggested that 1GB of data should cost the equivalent of 2% of average monthly income – with the additional onus on operators to be charging that same amount for five gigabytes by 2026.

This goal was put forward, last year, by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) – part of the Web Foundation, and with a membership roster including tech giants, social media platforms, and USAID – which ‘promotes the affordability of mobile broadband in low- and middle-income countries’.

A4AI calls 1GB of affordable mobile data a month an ‘entry’ package – this is in developing nations, NB – and in any case pronounces that ‘a gigabyte of data is not enough’. They call for more affordable access, and ‘public policies focussed on lowering costs.’

According to Cable analyses, several Central American countries had prices lower than the regional average, albeit still exceeding 5% of average incomes nationally. But from Mexico south, nine countries already offer as much as two gigabytes for the benchmark 2% of monthly income, and three nations – Brazil, Peru, and Argentina – offer five. In many countries in the region, 5GB of mobile data costs little or no more than 1.

While many of these are impoverished and/or developing nations, the Falklands is not. According to the 2016 census, the average per capita income was £23,142pa – and so at £38.57 the cost of 1GB of mobile data is more or less (depending whose numbers you use) 2% of average monthly income. But Sure’s biggest available phone package here only extends to 3GB of mobile data, and at £65, costs more like 3.5% of income. 5GB would cost at least £105 (on £65 contract, plus four 500MB data boosters), or almost 5.5%. On pay-as-you-go, it would come to £190, or very nearly 11% of average monthly income.

All of these studies, what’s more, refer only to the simple price of mobile data – not to speeds, coverage, or any other potential measures of data accessibility.

Citing various studies, the Alliance for Affordable Internet argues that greater broadband access could help contribute economically, a 2019 study by the International Telecommunication Union suggesting that a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration would lead to 1.2% growth in GDP in the Americas.

*all prices converted from US dollars to pounds on Tuesday this week

For Falklands Radio

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