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2013 Pacific Island mobile tariffs update

...the affordability of mobile services differs widely across the Pacific countries. For the low volume and typical prepaid usages, American Samoa has the most affordable mobile services whereas Kiribati has least affordable services.

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Mobile phones have been widely adopted as a tool for communication and significantly influenced the lives of people all over the world. At Network Strategies, we regularly collect data for mobile services offered in several Pacific countries and compare the prices and affordability of these services. In addition to the fifteen countries we analysed in April last year, operators from two additional countries – Timor-Leste and American Samoa – have been included in our analysis this year. As in past analyses we have compared mobile tariffs in these countries by calculating the average monthly spend for customers with low volume, typical prepaid and SMS-based mobile usages. In addition, we have used the tariffs to measure the affordability of these services.

The 2012 and 2013 monthly spends for low volume users (who make 30 calls and send 100 text messages per month) are illustrated in Exhibit 1. The monthly spend values are given in US dollars, converted using purchasing power parity rates. This year low volume customers of a number of operators are spending less than last year to achieve the same level of calling and texting. In particular, significant (over 10%) decreases are observed for customers of Digicel Fiji, Vodafone Fiji, Bemobile Solomon Islands, Telecom Cook Islands and Bemobile PNG. One of the new operators added to our analysis – Timor Telecom – is relatively inexpensive for low volume users compared to the other operators. As in the previous year, the two operators in Tonga are cheapest whereas NTA Marshall Islands and PMC in Palau are the most expensive operators for this level of use.

Exhibit 1: Monthly spend on mobile services for a low volume user (USD at purchasing power parity rates) [Source: Network Strategies]
Monthly spend on mobile services for a low volume user (USD PPP). Source: Network Strategies

Exhibit 2 shows the 2012 and 2013 monthly spends for typical prepaid users (who make 40 calls and send 60 text messages per month). It should be noted that only prepaid plans were included in this analysis. As in the low volume analysis, declines in monthly spend are observed for the customers of a number of operators, with significant (over 10%) decreases in tariffs of the same five operators (i.e. Digicel Fiji, Vodafone Fiji, Telecom Cook Islands, Bemobile PNG and Bemobile Solomon Islands). Typical prepaid users with the two operators in Tonga have the lowest monthly spend whereas those with the operators in Palau have the highest spend.

Exhibit 2: Monthly spend on mobile services for a typical prepaid user (USD at purchasing power parity rates) [Source: Network Strategies] Monthly spend on mobile services for a typical prepaid user (USD PPP). Source: Network Strategies

The 2012 and 2013 monthly spends for an SMS-based user (who makes 8 calls and sends 400 text messages per month) are shown in Exhibit 3. In most cases there is no change in the monthly spend. However, there is a significant (over 10%) decrease in monthly spend for customers of Bemobile Solomon Islands and Telecom Cook Islands. Although a substantial increase is observed in the tariff of Digicel Samoa (as it no longer offers a text based plan), its SMS customers still have a mid-range spend compared to customers of other operators. As in the previous year, Telecom Cook Islands has the most competitive offering for this type of usage while Bemobile Solomon Islands has the least competitive.

Exhibit 3: Monthly spend on mobile services for an SMS-based user (USD at purchasing power parity rates) [Source: Network Strategies] Monthly spend on mobile services for an SMS-based user (USD PPP). Source: Network Strategies

We have also included an analysis of prepaid plans (in Exhibit 4) with four additional countries – American Samoa, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island. As these countries do not have published purchasing power parity rates, we have used market exchange rates for the currency conversions in this analysis. Compared to the original countries analysed, customers of the two operators in American Samoa have relatively low monthly spend (with ASTCA customers having the lowest spend). In addition, Vini customers in French Polynesia have a mid-range monthly spend, whereas customers of Norfolk Telecom have the fourth highest and those of OPT in New Caledonia the highest monthly spend.

Exhibit 4: Monthly spend on mobile services for a typical prepaid user - including American Samoa, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island (USD) [Source: Network Strategies]
Monthly spend on mobile services for a typical prepaid user, including American Samoa, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island (USD). Source: Network Strategies

Along with a comparison of monthly spend for different usage levels, we have compared the affordability of mobile services in the Pacific countries. The affordability has been calculated as the percentage of average monthly income taken up by the monthly spend. For the three usage levels, the affordability in each country as well as the country's relative ranking (compared to other countries) is illustrated in Exhibit 5. It is clear that the affordability of mobile services differs widely across the Pacific countries. For the low volume and typical prepaid usages, American Samoa has the most affordable mobile services whereas Kiribati has least affordable services. However, for SMS-based usage, Norfolk Island has most affordable services whereas Timor-Leste has least affordable services.

Exhibit 5: Percentage of average monthly income used for low volume, typical prepaid and SMS-based mobile services in each country, with the country's relative ranking (compared to other countries) in the region [Source: Network Strategies]
Percentage of average monthly income used for mobile services in each country. Source: Network Strategies

 

Notes for analysis of monthly spend:

  • All plans were current as at 8 April 2013
  • All prices include GST (at the rate relevant to that country) and are in US dollars
  • The prices for each operator represent the plan resulting in the lowest monthly spend
  • OECD mobile baskets of usage were sourced from the report: Revision of the methodology for constructing telecommunications price baskets, 18 March 2010.
  • Prices for the 2012-2013 comparison graphs were converted to US dollars using 2011 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates sourced from the World Bank
  • Prices for the graph including American Samoa, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island were converted to US dollars using the average market exchange rates for 2011, sourced from Oanda
  • GDP per capita data were sourced from the World Bank for 2011.

June 2013


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