Kenya most expensive in East Africa in mobile internet affordability index

mobile internet

A man browses on his smart phone.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

You are now paying twice as much for mobile internet compared to last year, according to the latest report by British technology research firm Cable.

The report, Worldwide Mobile Data Pricing 2021, discloses that Kenyans are paying Sh244 per every one gigabyte of mobile data, compared to Sh112 in 2020, on average.

The data collected and analysed between December 8, 2020 and February 25, 2021 indicates that Kenya, which was second in East Africa last year, is now the most expensive country in the region.

Consequently, Kenya, preferably referred to as ‘Silicon Savannah’ due to its tech savvy population and vibrant innovation culture, was pushed from position 41 last year to 118 this year in global rankings.

For the third consecutive year since Cable started analysing global data prices in East Africa, Tanzania has retained its position as the country offering the lowest data charges in the bloc.

More affordable internet

Netizens in the country pay Sh81 for mobile connectivity, down from Sh101 last year. It is followed by Rwanda at Sh135, Uganda at Sh169 and Burundi at Sh227.

However, Kenya is expected to move up the ladder next year after Telkom Kenya started offering monthly 60GB of data at Sh1,000 in March this year, which translates to Sh16 per every one GB of mobile data per day.

Safaricom’s and Airtel’s offer of Sh100 for 2GB of mobile data per day this year is also expected to make internet more affordable for Kenyans, in a period where the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of cloud-based platforms, videoconferencing and more livestreaming.

The survey also reveals that Somalia is no longer offering the most affordable mobile internet in Africa, moving to third this year, as Sudan and Algeria take the first and second places respectively.

“In Sudan, the cost of mobile internet is Sh29, the cheapest in Africa and fifth in the world. Algeria is second at Sh55 and Somalia third at Sh65. Tanzania has the cheapest data in East Africa at Sh81 for every one gigabyte of data,” states the mobile affordability index.

Cheap data

Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable said many of the countries with cheap data have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure, enabling providers 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 said.

Nigeria and South Africa, which command high internet traffic from their internet hungry populations are charging Sh95 and Sh289 respectively.

In Africa’s top ten most affordable nations for mobile data, Somalia is followed by Ghana at Sh71, Libya at Sh80, Tanzania, Mauritius at Sh81, Re Union at Sh82, Mayotte at Sh89 and Nigeria.

A sharp contrast is evident among African nations’ data affordability efforts, where Sudanese citizens are surfing the internet for as little as Sh3 for 1GB of mobile data but Namibians are paying as high as Sh7,812 for the same service.

“At the more expensive end of the list, we have countries where often the infrastructure is not great but also where consumption is very small. People are often buying data packages of just a tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy,” Mr Howdle expounded.

Sub-Saharan Africa ranked as the most expensive region in the world with the average cost of mobile data being Sh698.

Most expensive countries

The region also has six out of the ten most expensive countries in the world, with Equatorial Guinea being the most expensive in the world (Sh5,363), joined by Saint Helena (Sh4,323), São Tomé and Príncipe (Sh3,358), Malawi (Sh2,761) and Chad (2,530) at the bottom of the table.

Countries with long-established, ubiquitous 4G or new 5G infrastructure, the study points out, tend to fall towards the cheaper end of the table.

“This is due to the fact that mobile data plans have escalated far beyond the 1-10GB per month median, offering instead plans with caps in the hundreds of gigabytes, or even completely unlimited. The cost per gigabyte in these countries will tend therefore to be very low.”

However, the research clarified that 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 its consumers.

Affordable mobile internet

Israel is now offering the most affordable mobile internet in the world at Sh5 on average, moving from second place last year, while India shockingly moved from first place last year (Sh9) to 28th this year at Sh73.

Israel is followed by Kyrgyzstan (Sh16), Fiji (Sh20), Italy (Sh29) and Sudan.

The United Kingdom comes in at 78th in the world, with 1GB of mobile data costing an average of Sh154.

 Surprisingly, the United States, a much developed nation, is one of the most expensive economies for purchasing mobile data, coming in 154th in the world, with an average 1GB cost of Sh361.

Other developed economies with high data prices are Germany, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and Norway which charge Sh366, Sh366, Sh417, Sh512, Sh568, Sh572, Sh620 and Sh630 respectively.

The survey notes that wealthy nations tend to have good mobile infrastructure, decently-sized data caps and relatively healthy markets.

“Since populations can afford to pay more, and network infrastructure costs that much more to own and run, and provided they haven't reached the 'excellent infrastructure' category where data limits are beyond normal usage or entirely unlimited, data pricing drifts towards the global average.”