Worldwide, 4G data plans are still expensive but competition is slowly bringing prices down.
If you've just bought a 4G smartphone or tablet and want to know where to find the best data plan, then research published Friday shows that Hong Kong is the best place to go. Despite growing popularity, mobile phone networks' 4G data plans are still on average 20 percent higher than the equivalent 3G plans. The cross-country comparison study of mobile data pricing by ABI highlights that currently Hong Kong's CSL, which launched its service in November 2011, is the world's cheapest.
However there is some good news for early adopters around the globe as it appears that prices are starting to be influenced by competition. Because as well as greater download speeds, 4G provides network operators with greater capacity. "In South Korea, SK Telecom has cut its 4G pricing to remain competitive. Their ‘LTE 62 Plan' for smartphones used to be priced US$55.04 for 3 GB of data, but the monthly download quota has now been increased to 5 GB. ABI Research has seen similar 4G mobile data quota and/or pricing revisions in Norway, Hong Kong, and the US," said Jake Saunders, VP for forecasting at ABI Research.
At the moment, the lowest 3G mobile data tariff can be found in Singapore, where M1 offers a 4 GB data plan for just US$9.62.
"As 4G devices come down in price, operators will be keen to increase 4G market-share. Cutting tariffs, or boosting data quotas, will be tempting but they need to make sure they achieve greater overall returns," said ABI research associate Marina Lu.
However, there is still one obstacle to reducing prices further. As the capabilities of mobile devices have evolved, so have using habits, with most smartphone owners using their handsets less and less for making calls or sending text messages, historically two areas where operators could earn more revenue to offset promotions on data. But as well as upload and download speeds, one of the other advantages of 4G over 3G is VoLTE or Voice over LTE -- a vocal equivalent of high definition which makes phone calls clearer. But so far no operators appear to be offering the feature as a service. That means that despite the incredible internet conncetion speeds 4G offers, when not consuming data, the connection drops back to G2 for making and receiving calls.