An Unpopular African Island Nation Has Africa’s Costliest Mobile Data

By  |  August 26, 2020

When it comes to the cost of mobile data prices, Sub-Saharan Africa is always on the high side. But the means by which a rarely-talked-about African nation has the continent’s most expensive 1GB package is rather interesting. It is São Tomé and Príncipe, an island close to the equator with a population of 211,028.

Island Nations’ Data Luxury

According to a new survey by Cable, in São Tomé and Príncipe, it costs USD 28.26 to buy 1GB of mobile data. The price comes just after Bermuda’s USD 28.75. Meanwhile, the most expensive in the world is sat on by Saint Helena—an Atlantic Ocean island—with USD 52.50.

World's most expensive mobile data

These five countries are strikingly island nations. This points to the fact that such geographies have underdeveloped fibre infrastructure. Being that mobile networks rely on fibre backbones, costly solutions become an alternative, ultimately making data expensive for the consumer.

Large regions with growing economies such as those in East Africa have managed to raise the money needed to plug themselves into modern internet. But remote islands—the last few unconnected parts of world—lack the purchasing power to follow suit.

As a result, countries such as São Tomé and Príncipe heavily rely on borderline expensive and significantly inefficient satellite internet. In reality, that could mean dropped file downloads, slow dial-ups and the threat of being plunged into information darkness by one single malfunction.

Most islands are spread out, which means they would need more miles of cable to ramp up internet connection. But their populations are far more sparse than that of land-based countries. As such, the financial incentives to build the technology is not as apparent is it would be on non-islands.

Only 28 percent of this African island’s population use the internet. Nevertheless, it was as low as 18.75 percent in 2010, and lower before. 1998 was the first time anyone (0.30 percent) was ever connected to the internet in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Sao Tome and Principe : internet users

Costliest Isn’t SSA After All?

Africa as a whole continent may be the world capital for expensive data, per arguments. But as Cable’s new survey reveals, Sub-Saharan Africa, more precisely, is not the costliest place to be mobile data-wise.

The region is the fourth most expensive in the world, coming just after the Carribean. Per the report, the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in SSA is USD 6.91. For contrast, the same package costs USD 14.71 in Northern America, the global most expensive.

“Contrary to what one might expect, 8 out of the top 50 cheapest countries in the world for mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is in stark contrast to the cost of broadband on the continent, which is almost universally very high or non-existent,” the report says.

Somalia is the African country with the cheapest mobile data. It occupies the 7th position globally, with USD 0.50. India is the world’s least expensive, with USD 0.09. Israel follows with USD 0.11. Last year (2019), Zimbabwe had the world’s priciest mobile data.

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