Data survey suggests UK consumers should be more price savvy

Cable.co.uk has released data which suggests the UK is 136th in the world for affordability when it comes to mobile data plans.

Data is increasingly running our lives and while many might feel they have struck the right balance between quantity and affordability this survey suggests otherwise. After comparing 6,313 mobile data plans in 230 countries, the UK ranks at 136 worldwide, and in the bottom half of the table for Europe.

“When looking at the UK compared to our European and EU counterparts, it’s disappointing to see the UK among the most expensive countries for mobile data,” said Dan Howdle of Cable.co.uk.

“Despite a healthy UK marketplace, our study has uncovered that EU nations such as Finland, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Austria and France pay a fraction of what we pay in the UK for similar data usage. It will be interesting to see how our position is affected post-Brexit.”

On average, UK consumers are currently paying £4.97 per GB a month ($6.42), with the lowest being £0.7 and the most expensive as high as £32 per GB a month. What is worth taking into account is the survey only measured SIM-only plans, excluding the complicated task of factoring in the price of a subsidized device. But how does this compare to other countries?

India was the cheapest worldwide, with a GB costing only $0.26 per month, though all of the telcos are struggling to remain profitable. Asian countries take up 50% of the top 20 in fact. Finland was the cheapest in Europe, $1.16 per GB a month, while across the pond, US consumers are paying $12.37 per GB a month and the Canadians came out at $12.02. The global average was $8.53.

As there haven’t been riots on the streets, it does seem most consumers are relatively content with the price they are paying. Admittedly in some cases it is extortionately expensive, something which should be addressed, but many of the markets are pricing plans in-line with the relative wealth of the nation.

That said, there is a wide chasm between the most and least expensive plans more often than not. This suggests consumers are not being savvy enough when purchasing mobile contracts in the first place, are not aware of other deals which are available or do not believe there is value in changing provider. It may be easy to blame the telcos for the high-price of data, but this can be a lazy route to take.

Cable.co.uk and other consumer groups might use this data to punish telcos, we suspect the increased price in the UK is more to do with consumers not being savvy enough. After years as a Vodafone customer, your correspondent switched to Giffgaff and a data plan which was much more generous. Admittedly a subsidized phone is not included in the deal, but in paying £1.33 per GB ($1.75), the monthly bill is substantially lower than what Vodafone was offering, or what Cable.co.uk have identified as the monthly average in the UK.

We believe the consumer is not blameless. For example, a now-available Vodafone 24-month contract with a Huawei Mate 20 Pro would cost £38 per month. Adding in the upfront cost of £179, the total would be £3.03 per GB a month. This is still below the average quoted by Cable.co.uk and would still be lower if the cost of the handset was factored into the equation.

Cable.co.uk has only taken into account tariffs which are currently available to consumers, therefore removing data points from legacy and on-going tariffs which might have thrown the averages, but the availability of cheaper contracts suggests some of the blame has to be taken by the consumer.

The price of tariffs are generally relative to the market which they are in. In the UK, we are relatively lucky due to competition keeping the price of data down (in comparison to the geographically vast markets such as the US) but squeeze too tight and the telcos don’t have enough to invest in networks in a commercially viable fashion, or they prioritise markets which are more profitable. Both would impact experience and the latter would create a digital divide.

While your correspondent cannot comment on other markets, being based in the UK, the outcome of this survey seems to be relatively clear. If you’re not happy with the price of your tariff, move, as there are cheaper options on the market.

UK is getting worse at broadband – study

Cable.co.uk has published its latest worldwide broadband speed league and found the UK is worse than 34 other countries.

Our average broadband speed of 18.57 Mbps puts us 35th out of the 200 countries measured in the study, down from 31 the last time it was done. Singapore is the best at 60 Mbps, while Yemen can only manage 310 Kbps. You can check out all the data here.

“It’s been very interesting looking at the data for a second year running, not least because we have three times as much of it this time around,” said Cable.co.uk Analyst Dan Howdle. “It is, however, somewhat sad to see the UK not faring better. A number of other countries have leapfrogged us since last year, including France and Madagascar.

“Compared to many other countries both in and out of Europe the UK has simply come too late to a full fibre (FTTP) solution. Despite plans to roll out FTTP to UK homes across the next decade or so, the UK is likely to fall further behind while we wait.”

CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch served up his tried and tested angle. “Seeing the UK falling even further behind other EU countries for broadband speed is depressing but not surprising, given the UK’s lack of investment in fibre to the premises and other nations’ new networks increasingly coming online,” he persisted.

“Companies are now investing billions to bring this technology to the UK, but this will only be successful with the Government’s full support. The place to start is putting a stop to the misleading use of the word fibre in broadband advertising, so that consumers know that when they see fibre, it is a fibre to the premises connection they are buying. Copper is dead: it is time for the UK to embrace full fibre – no ifs, no buts.”

UK broadband subscribers typically get half of the advertised speed – Which

Consumer advocacy group Which mined data from its broadband speed checker app to compare what is advertised with what people actually get.

The overall finding was that, on average, the 235,000 users of the app pay for broadband services that claim to offer speeds ‘up to’ 38 Mbps, but only get 19 Mbps. Which seems to have timed the announcement to coincide with new advertising standards that will come into effect next week, apparently prohibiting the use of the slipper phrase ‘up to’ when plugging broadband services in the UK.

“This change in the rules is good news for customers who have been continuously been let down by unrealistic adverts and broadband speeds that won’t ever live up to expectations,” said Alex Neill of Which. “We know that speed and reliability of service really matter to customers and we will be keeping a close eye on providers to make sure they follow these new rules and finally deliver the service that people pay for.”

Not everyone is convinced by these findings, however. “Looking at Which’s results here I have to say I find them rather odd,” said Dan Howdle of broadband advice site Cable.co.uk. “Ofcom’s most recent testing shows, for example, that a 200Mbps connection (offered exclusively by Virgin Media in the UK) averaged 92% of the advertised speed at peak times.

“With such a large disparity between Ofcom’s results and those of Which I believe something could be amiss. One possible explanation might be if measurements were to be taken over wifi (rather than over a LAN cable) – this would have the potential to show the much slower averages measured by Which.

“Wifi, while capable of these speeds on paper, tends to be slowed down considerably (compared to a LAN cable) in your typical urban environment thanks to signal interference and architectural considerations. Whatever the cause, Which’s results are at odds with those of the regulator, as well as a multitude of other sources.”

Oh dear Which. There’s always the danger of confirmation bias when research is conducted by organisations with a commercial agenda. Which wants to sell subscriptions, switching services (of which Cable.co.uk seems to be one) want people to shop around through them. It does seem likely, however, that ‘up to’ marketing is misleading and hopefully its prohibition will empower consumers by itself.

Here’s Which’s table, followed by the Ofcom data referred to by Howdle.

Which bb speed table

Ofcom BB speed table

Turns out UK broadband isn’t as bad as you think

Out of 196 countries, Iran offers the world’s cheapest broadband and Burkina Faso offers the most expensive, while the UK sits in the middle but on performance its 31st – net win?

The statistics have been taken from Cable.co.uk’s worldwide pricing research, which raises a few surprises. Iran sits at the top of the list, only charging $5.37 per month for users to access the world wide web, while customers in Burkina Faso would have to pay a whopping $960.52. We’re pretty sure even the most hardcore of millennials would pass on cat videos for that price.

And while we might complain about the price of broadband in the UK, it doesn’t actually seem that bad. Ranked 63rd at an average price of $40.63 per month is quite reasonable, when you consider the levels of disposable cash we have here. And when you compare to previous research from Cable.co.uk on average speeds, UK was 31st with a 16.51 Mbps average, it doesn’t actually seem like a bad trade off.

“In the UK there can be no doubt there is still a significant number of people who feel they are paying too much for a service that’s less than adequate,” said Dan Howdle of Cable.co.uk. “However, the hugely popular narrative that the UK has awful, expensive broadband simply isn’t true.

“Our data demonstrates that when it comes to broadband, both the national marketplace and the infrastructure that underpins it are imperfect no matter where you live.

“With a healthy, open marketplace offering very cheap broadband deals to everyone, and so-called ‘superfast’ speeds to almost 96% of homes, the UK is doing considerably better than the majority of countries around the world.”

For those who feel they are still getting the sharp end of the stick, we have pulled out a few other average monthly prices just to put things in perspective:

  • Gibraltar: $49.56
  • Guernsey: $52.56
  • Jersey: $56.51
  • Australia: $60.37
  • USA: $66.17
  • Hong Kong: $71.17
  • Switzerland: $81.20
  • UAE: $155.17

So next time you fancy complaining about the price or performance of your broadband, just remember those poor guys over in the UAE. Not only are they paying $155.17 for connectivity, the average download speeds are 4.17 Mbps.