This week’s business help desk highlights the cost of internet in PNG and the Pacific.

How much does it cost to get online?

A Pacific Case study:

Data price trend

The trend of data prices globally indicates a significant and consistent decline over the last five years. In 2019, the average global cost of 1GB of mobile data was $8.18.

By the following year, this price had dropped by 37.58 per cent to $5.09, demonstrating a substantial decrease as technology improved and market competition intensified.

The downward trend continued in 2021, with costs falling another 20 per cent to $4.07, and in 2022, the average cost decreased by 23.32 per cent to $3.12.

The year 2023 marked another year of reduction in prices, with a 16.35 per cent decline bringing the global average cost of 1GB of mobile data down to $2.61.

This consistent decrease reflects several factors, including advancements in telecommunications technology, economies of scale as the global demand for mobile data surged, and regulatory actions in some regions to promote affordability and accessibility.

The expansion of mobile network infrastructure, including the rollout of more efficient technologies like 5G, also contributes to the lowering cost, as providers are able to offer more data at a lower incremental cost.

Moreover, the increasing number of market players in various regions has led to competitive pricing, further driving down costs for consumers.

Overall, the global trend towards cheaper mobile data is a positive development, potentially leading to increased mobile internet adoption and higher data consumption per user, which can fuel the growth of digital economies and contribute to socio-economic development.

Accessing data in the Pacific

The internet coverage in the Pacific region has seen significant changes over the past decade.

The region has evolved from being reliant on a single satellite to having undersea cables providing internet to many of its countries, particularly in the South Pacific.

This development has resulted in capacity expansion across many island nations, with some countries like Tonga experiencing a five-fold increase in internet use shortly after the deployment of these cables.

Investments in network infrastructure have led to greater competition among service providers, resulting in reduced Internet prices and increased adoption of mobile broadband.

Countries like Vanuatu and Fiji are leading the way with policies aimed at universal access and efficient spectrum allocation, respectively.

However, challenges remain, including the need for greater network coverage and capacity, especially for the last mile connectivity.

Despite these advancements, a significant portion of the Pacific population still lacks access to quality broadband.

High costs remain a barrier, with subscribers in most island nations spending a substantial part of their monthly income on mobile data services.

For instance, mobile data in Fiji is comparatively affordable, but in countries like Tokelau, the cost is significantly higher.

In terms of specific data on mobile data package prices across the Pacific region in 2023, it’s important to note the varying costs:

Fiji: Maintains its position as the country with the cheapest mobile data in the region, with an average cost of $0.09 per GB.

This price is incredibly competitive globally, as Fiji ranks 3rd worldwide for the lowest mobile data prices.

Samoa: Follows as the second most affordable in the region at $0.36 per GB, with prices ranging from $0.24 to $1.09 for the most expensive package.

Papua New Guinea: Has an average mobile data cost of $1.36 per GB, with the cheapest 1GB for 30 days priced at $0.33 and the most expensive at a steep $22.74.

French Polynesia and Vanuatu: Present higher mobile data costs in the region with averages of $0.75 and $1.54 per GB, respectively.

Notably, French Polynesia has one of the most expensive rates for 1GB at $40.30.

New Zealand: Despite its development, faces higher data costs with an average of $5.89 per GB. This contrasts sharply with its neighbor Australia, which averages at $0.44 per GB.

Tokelau: Stands out as the most expensive in the region, with the average price of 1GB at $17.24, highlighting the challenges of remote island connectivity.

The disparity in mobile data pricing across the Pacific reflects a range of factors, including infrastructure challenges, market competition, and the geographical remoteness of many islands.

While some countries benefit from competitive pricing and relatively low costs, others face significant barriers to affordable internet access, underscoring the need for continued investment and innovation in connectivity solutions for the region.

This analysis indicates that while there is progress in internet coverage, with increasing numbers of users each year, the cost remains a critical issue.

The wide range of prices within the Pacific itself suggests that there’s considerable room for improvement in making internet access more equitable, particularly for the more remote and less developed islands.

This article was written By Ashnil Prasad. Mr Prasad is a Mergers and Acquisition Specialist working as the ATH Group Chief Investment Officer.

This article represents Mr Prasad’s personal views and opinion and not those of ATH Group or any of its subsidiaries.


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