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Report: Mobile Broadband in the United States is Expensive

By Alex Braelow

US has most expensive mobile broadband in the world

A new report from from the Finnish research firm, Rewheel, found what American consumers have known for quite some time: mobile broadband in the United States is really expensive.

Americans pay the fifth-highest price per-gigabyte on smartphone data plans, and the U.S. is the most expensive mobile broadband market among the 41 countries represented in the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

This is rather perplexing, as the U.S. is home to four major wireless carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. In such a crowded landscape, it is assumed that competition would keep broadband prices down. Instead, prices in the U.S. are more akin to countries where there’s just three major players.

While the report does note that per-gigabyte prices in the U.S. have declined by roughly 11% between April and October of 2018, the median gigabyte price of smartphone plans in the U.S. is still four times higher than in the 4-MNO EU markets, and 16 times higher than in a competitive 4-MNO large European market.

As the folks over at Rewheel put it: “The U.S. is an outlier 4-MNO market with much higher prices, that are typical to 3-MNO tight oligopoly markets.”

Furthermore, Rewheel implies that the problem could be exacerbated by the potential merging of T-Mobile and Sprint, the third and fourth largest carriers in the U.S.

The researchers warn: “Judging from the excessive gigabyte prices U.S. operators are charging today for 4G mobile broadband, merger promises concerning affordable 5G home broadband should be critically reviewed and if verified must be made binding.”

In other words, Rewheel worries that consolidation could lead to an even less competitive market and that the U.S. could therefore be saddled with unusually expensive mobile broadband for years to come.