Looking at one of the more common plans on offer, for over 1,000 minutes and more than 2 GB data per month, the median price fell in eight of the 16 countries surveyed, with especially strong drops in Italy and Germany. Compared to Q3 2014, prices for the same plan were also down in nine of the 16 countries.
According to Telecompaper, competition on the Sim-only market is intensifying, as more operators move away from handset subsidies and customers turn to other channels to buy their smartphones. The migration to (near) unlimited plans is also driving the commodification of mobile services and putting pressure on prices.
In contrast, the report found that the total cost of mobile service plans with a high-end device had generally gone up over the past six months. This may be explained in part by the use in the comparison of the latest Samsung flagship model, which only came out in Q3 2015, compared to the previous report based on a device midway through its price cycle.
The Telecompaper report compares mobile price plans based on the total cost of ownership (TCO): the monthly price, with or without a handset, as well as any extra fees or promotions. The data covers all the major mobile network operators, including many of their low-cost, sub-brands, in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. In total, more than 1,480 plans were on offer in Q3 2015, about 22 percent less than during the previous survey in Q1 2015.
The research shows the volume of communication included in mobile bundles is still increasing. In Q3 2015, 41 percent of all Sim-only plans included more than 1,000 minutes, up from 37 percent in Q1 2015, while the share of plans with more than 2GB increased over the same period from 37 percent to 42 percent. That growth was strongest in Italy, where only 22 percent of Sim-only plans included more than 2GB in Q1 2015 but six months later that had grown to 83 percent. In the Scandinavian countries most plans included more than 2GB in Q3 2015, while Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands had the smallest shares of plans with over 2GB per month.
Of the 16 countries surveyed, Denmark, Norway and Sweden showed the cheapest Sim-only prices, both in terms of median TCO and lowest TCO, while France, Italy and Spain were also relatively cheap. Greece and Switzerland were the most expensive countries, followed by Portugal. The remainder of the 16 countries showed varying results, depending on the mix of minutes and data included in the plan. Compared to Q1 2015, the most notable change was recorded in Austria, which ranked among the cheap countries six months ago but now shows varying results due to price increases in some ranges. Also notable was the reduction in the number of plans on offer in Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.
When looking at plans with a high-end device, Austria, Denmark, Italy and Norway were ranked the best, with the Netherlands and Sweden also ranking amongst the mostly cheap countries. Consumers in Greece and Portugal still have to pay more than in the other European countries.