May 2017 (updated 22.05.2017)
The state of 4G pricing, mobile data usage, spectrum usage, network capacity utilization and fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution. After its comeback in 2016, in 2017 unlimited mobile data goes viral and spreads to 22 countries. And while in competitive markets such as France and Denmark consumers can buy 100 or unlimited gigabytes for less than €30, in tight mobile oligopoly markets such as Portugal, Greece and Hungary €30 hardly buys any gigabytes. Europe’s mobile data divide widens further: 200x more gigabytes for €30 in smartphone plans, 600x more gigabytes in mobile broadband plans, 200x difference in median gigabyte prices, 40x difference in mobile data usage per capita and spectrum usage.
EU’s 5G competition challenge
A handful of big telco groups – with vested interests in fixed-line broadband – impose very restrictive mobile internet usage caps. This raises serious concerns that these telco groups – that tightly control most EU national markets – will not be incentivised to sell competitively priced 5G internet access.
Spectrum use in Finland and the UK versus Germany
According to data reported by the national regulatory authorities and presented in the first release (1H2014) of the DFMonitor the average monthly mobile data consumption per capita varies greatly across EU28. In 2012 the Finnish consumed on average 1.49 Gigabyte every month while the British 0.38 Gigabyte. The Germans on the other hand consumed a dismal 0.15 Gigabyte every month. Why do consumers in competitive markets (where a challenger operator is present) consume up to 10 times more mobile data than consumers in protected markets such as Germany? Are Germans less eager users of the internet?
Are cellular operators running out of spectrum?
There is a common opinion in the industry that 3G/HSPA mobile data networks are congested because operators are running out of their spectrum resources. Considering the traffic demand, likely traffic geo-distribution, daily profile and the constrains of HSPA and LTE technology our models show that in typical mature mobile telecommunications markets spectrum scarcity alone does not cause a capacity crunch yet.
LTE - turning point in telecom infrastructure sourcing models
The budget of operators’ LTE investments is being squeezed by the challenging mobile data business case. In order to make economic sense, the cost of rolling out an LTE network cannot be more than a fraction of the money that has been spent on 3G rollouts. Moreover, the price of incremental capacity upgrades needs to be at least ten times lower than the typical price of adding comparable capacity to HSPA networks.