How do you access the internet?

Chances are that if your country has limited landline coverage you use your cellphone, and the cost of that access varies widely from country to country.

India, where fewer than 2% of users connect over a landline, has the cheapest average data cost at just 26 US cents per gigabyte, according to a survey of over 6,000 mobile data plans in 230 countries.

The low cost is partly down to the nation’s vibrant market and high technological awareness, meaning there is strong adoption and competition is high.


Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Rwanda are the other nations making up the cheapest five and all have average costs below 60 cents. They also have low levels of landline connection rates.

By contrast, the most expensive nation on Earth to buy mobile data is Zimbabwe, with an eye-watering average of $75.20. The country’s most expensive provider charges a massive $138.46. After a period of hyperinflation, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate slipped below 60% this year.

Checking a mobile phone in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
Zimbabwe is the most expensive nation in which to buy mobile data.
Image: Reuters

The price of sophistication

Countries with developed cable networks are among the most expensive places to buy mobile data. In the United States, the average cost of a gigabyte of data is more than $12, putting it at number 182 in the rankings.

The UK fared little better with an average cost of $6.66, ranked at number 136. Finland by contrast has both some of the best fixed communications infrastructure and Europe’s lowest data costs. Europe’s most expensive data is found in Greece, where the cost averages $32.71.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about ensuring access to the internet for all?

In 2018, internet connectivity finally reached over half the world’s population. Yet some 3.4 billion people – about 50% of the world’s population – are still not online.

Although much progress has been made in closing this digital divide, the challenge remains overwhelming, complex and multidimensional. It requires a collaborative, multistakeholder approach to overcome four key barriers to internet inclusion: infrastructure; affordability; skills, awareness and cultural acceptance; and relevant content.

The World Economic Forum launched Internet for All in 2016 to provide a platform where leaders from government, private-sector, international organizations, non-profit organizations, academia and civil society could come together and develop models of public-private collaboration for internet inclusion globally.

Since its launch, Internet for All has achieved significant on-the-ground results globally - including launching four operational country programmes in Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina and Jordan.

Read more about our results, and ongoing efforts to ensure access to the internet for all in our impact story.

Contact us to partner with the Forum and shape the future of our digital economy.

Asian countries make up half of the top 20 cheapest in the world. Despite high prices in Zimbabwe, 10 of the top 50 cheapest data nations are in sub-Saharan Africa, where mobile dominates the communications infrastructure.

“Many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories,” says Dan Howdle, analyst at cable.co.uk, which carried out the research. “Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte. Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford.”

Excellent infrastructure or a heavy reliance on phones for connectivity usually lead to lower prices, the survey showed. Food for thought as you’re reaching for your smartphone.