Indosat boasts cheapest data

Melissa Chua
23 May 2011
Daily News

Asian operators offer some of the lowest base prices for data plans, according to ABI Research.

The firm, which conducted a cross-country comparison of mobile data pricing in Asia, Europe and the US, found Indonesia’s Indosat offered the cheapest monthly flat rate of $13.52 for an unlimited data plan. ABI Research used a 3GB monthly usage yardstick as platform for comparison and found Asian operators offered prices that ranged between $13 and $40, with the exception of Japan and Korea.

Operators in the US charged between $35 and $80 while European operators charged anywhere between $15 to $135. Markets covered include Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, Australia, Ukraine, Russia, South Africa, Egypt, the US, Canada and Brazil.

Asia’s lower data prices could be attributed to factors such as a lower cost of living, lower cost of input, regulatory control and competition, Lim Shiyang, a research associate at ABI Research, told Telecom Asia. “The ICT industry is a labor intensive one. Cost of labor in Asia is lower compared to Western countries and these lower costs give operators leeway to offering more competitive prices.”

Government regulation could also be responsible for Asia’s lower data prices. “Operators may be encourage to keep prices low to promote the widespread adoption of mobile services,” said Lim, adding state-linked operators such as SingTel, Indosat, BSNL and China Unicom could, due to their large market share, influence prices. “Other operators in the same market will follow suit so as to achieve competitive parity, which results in low prices for the entire market.”

Competition was ‘the’ deciding factor that determined prices, said Lim. “India has a very fragmented and competitive market and that has helped drive prices down; however, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number of operators needed to bring about competitive pricing. Singapore and China each have just three operators but they too offer comparatively lower pricing plans.”

Japan and Korea ranked the highest in Asia for data pricing, with prices ranging from $50 - $100, although Japan’s operators charge by the packet (128 Bytes) instead of MB or GB. Lim said this was not surprising due to the two countries’ higher standards of living compared to their Asian counterparts.

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