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Gig guide: The countries with the cheapest and most expensive data… and how SA measures up

With the world now relying so heavily on the internet, affordable mobile data has become a necessity for many globally, but 1GB of data is increasingly becoming more expensive in Africa and South America.

This is according to a recent analysis by, which compared the price of one gigabyte (1GB) of mobile data across 273 countries and territories.

“Tracking mobile data pricing in over 200 countries and territories across multiple 12-month periods has allowed us to generate an overall average price of 1GB of data for the globe, and to see how this number changes over time. The good news is that the global cost of data continues to fall rapidly,” the report said.

Explaining their methodology, the researchers wrote that they had sorted through the data in three ways:

“The average monthly cost of each plan is calculated based upon one gigabyte of data,” the researchers explained.

“For example, a 10GB SIM with a cost of $30 would be calculated at $3 per gigabyte (10/3)3. The average monthly cost of 1GB of data for each country as a whole is calculated as the median of every plan recorded.”

The analysis revealed that some of the most expensive prices are found in the remote island nations and countries of Africa and South America. These include Zimbabwe, Falkland Islands, Saint Helena, South Sudan, and Tokelau.

The cheapest data, according to the report, is in Israel. Other countries and territories with comparatively cheaper data prices include Italy, Fiji, San Marino, and Cambodia.

Most expensive countries and territories for 1GB Data

At a staggering $43.75 (around R830.66) per gigabyte, Zimbabwe takes the top spot as the region with the most expensive data. While the report doesn’t mention why prices are so high, contributing factors include economic challenges and limited infrastructure development.

With an average cost of $40.58 (R770.47) per gigabyte, the Falkland Islands ranks second in terms of high data prices.

Saint Helena, another remote island nation, follows closely behind with an average cost of $40.13 (761.92) per gigabyte.

South Sudan, in East Africa, is the fourth most expensive country to buy 1GB of data, with an average cost of $23.70 (R449.98).

Tokelau, a tiny territory located in the Pacific Ocean, rounds out the top five list with an average cost of $17.24 (R327.33) per gigabyte.

At number 142 out of 237, South Africa falls a little on the expensive side of the table with one gigabyte of data recorded as going for an average cost of $1.81 (R34.37).

Cheapest countries and territories for 1GB Data

When it comes to cheaper data, Israel leads the pack with an incredibly low average cost of just $0.02 (R0.38) per gigabyte.

According to the analysis:

With three-quarters of Israelis owning a smartphone, Israel boasts a higher smartphone market penetration than the United States of America. Multiple providers offer huge data allowances with extensive 4G LTE and 5G network coverage.

Second on the list is Italy, with an average cost of $0.09 (R1.71) per gigabyte. The availability of infrastructure, among other factors, makes it easy for countries like Italy to provide affordable data.

Despite its remote island status, Fiji offers a gigabyte of data for an average cost of $0.09 (R1.71) per gigabyte. The presence of two mobile networks providing both 4G and 5G coverage helps keep data costs down.

San Marino, a small European nation, follows closely behind with an average cost of $0.10 (R1.90) per gigabyte. The country benefits from 100% 5G coverage, ensuring affordable and fast mobile data.

Last on the top 5 cheapest list is Cambodia, with an average cost of $0.12 (R2.28) per gigabyte. In Cambodia, mobile data is the primary means of internet access, driving competition and affordability.

The analysis categorises countries into four archetypes to better explain factors that determine the price of data. These include the quality of infrastructure, reliance, the amount of consumption and the strength of the economy.

The global trend

Despite the high prices in the island and African countries, a positive trend reveals that the cost of mobile data is falling globally.

From 2019 to 2023, the average global cost of 1GB of mobile data decreased significantly, making it more accessible worldwide.

“It’s encouraging to see the price of data coming down across the globe as a whole, with the vast majority of countries offering 1GB of mobile data for less than USD 2.00. It’s a very different picture to the one we saw in 2019,” said consumer telecoms analyst Dan Howdie. –