U.S. mobile broadband is among the most expensive in the world, new report finds

A new report from Rewheel looks at the median price for mobile data. (Rewheel)

The price U.S. residents pay for mobile broadband on their smartphones is among the highest in the world, according to a new report from Rewheel (PDF), a Finland-based research firm. Even with four major operators competing for wireless customers, the U.S. market has the fifth-highest price per gigabyte on smartphone data plans.

Per-gigabyte prices dropped an average of 11% during the last six months in the U.S., but it’s still the most expensive market for mobile broadband among 41 countries in the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to Rewheel’s research.

The high price U.S. residents pay for mobile broadband could also be reinforced by market forces if T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint is approved by regulators. Rewheel concluded that mobile data pricing in the U.S. is more akin to what it sees in less-competitive, more-entrenched markets.

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“The U.S. is an outlier [four mobile network operator] market with much higher prices that are typical to [three mobile network operator] tight oligopoly markets,” the firm wrote.

Rewheel also found that the median gigabyte price of smartphone plans in the U.S. is four times higher than European Union countries served by four operators. Moreover, when compared with a highly competitive European market with four carriers, the median gigabyte price in the U.S. is 16 times higher.

Rewheel calls U.S. mobile broadband prices “excessive” and concluded that further consolidation could lead to an even less competitive market and stress the dynamics that enable carriers to charge more for 5G.

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