U.S. smartphone owners pay 3-10 times more for 4G LTE data, says study


We can now add 4G LTE service to the list of things Americans pay significantly more to have than the rest of the world — right next to education and health care. According to a GSM Association study reported by the New York Times, Americans pay three times more per gigabyte of data than the average European consumers — and ten times more than Sweden. But at least we can get a large pizza for just $5, right America?

The study revealed that America’s leading LTE provider, Verizon Wireless, charges its subscribers $7.50 for every gigabyte of data downloaded over its network. In comparison, the average cost of a gig in Europe is $2.50. Sweden leads the way in inexpensive service, with data only ringing up at $0.63 per gigabyte.

Verizon spokeswomen Brenda Raney did counter this information by pointing out the Verizon plan that is being compared is from its Share Everything plan, which includes unlimited call and text minutes and allows data to be shared among ten devices. If a person was to purchase a data only plan, similar to how the European providers offer service, they would only pay over twice the European average with a cost of $5.50 per gigabyte. Of course, Europeans separate talk and data plans, though. Verizon, on the other hand, is forcing all new users to sign up for Share Everything plans. And though you can connect up to 10 devices to an account, there is a monthly fee per device, which ranges from $10 to $40. 

Verizon was the first company to roll out 4G LTE in the United States, followed by AT&T. Verizon still owns the market with 11.6 million LTE subscribers (AT&T reports just short of a million), or about 43 percent of the world’s 27 million LTE users. The lone country to beat Verizon to market just happens to be the cheapest: Sweden. The cost gap seems to have everything to do with competition, though. Europe has 38 of the world’s 88 LTE providers fighting for subscribers. Austria and Finland have three within their borders alone. Meanwhile, the world’s largest market for mobile, the United States, is still playing catch up in this regard.

This has actually been a trend with phone service in the United States. The average cost of a 3G contract runs an American citizen $115 a month. In comparison, citizens of the Netherlands pay $51 and those in Britain pay $59. The higher costs keep the adoption rate at a slow climb, which in turn keeps the cost up on those that have jumped on board because the provider has to recoup costs from building  the network. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that is very American: Pay more, consume more, and get less.