Within the framework of its activity the President of the Office of Electronic Communications monitors developments in tariffs for services provided to their customers by domestic mobile operators, including tariffs for wireless Internet access services.
Given dynamic development of Internet in mobile networks, the analysis of tariffs offered by mobile operators is crucial from the perspective of consumer knowledge about this market segment.
This report aims at presenting up-to-date prices for mobile Internet. The analysis presents costs to be borne by customers in relation to their monthly spending and the resultant real price for 1 MB of data transfer.
The President of UKE stresses that for the calculation of average monthly spending and prices for 1 MB the assumptions described in Chapter 3 have been adopted. In order to choose an optimum mobile Internet offer each consumer should make its own calculation based on individual assumptions, such as e.g. monthly data transfer limits, preferred modem type, desired access technology or additional services on offer.
During the last nine months further changes have taken place in mobile Internet offers. Although in many cases operators maintained the same tariff plans as the year before, including the same prices, the number of USB modems and ExpressCards offered for only 1 PLN increased. Operators limit the number of devices on offer and in some cases they give up the PCMCIA standard. Consumers still have the option to choose "trial offers" or tariffs with a promotional period of lower subscription within the first few months, however the latter are not so numerous as in August 2009, and the promotional subscription period is on many occasions shorter. Certain networks harmonise activation fees for all consumer offers. By contrast, operators significantly raised the highest limits of monthly data transfers: from 14 to 36 GB for Orange Free offers, from 16 to 20 GB for blueconnect offers, from 19.5 to 37 GB for iPlus offers and from 1 to 2 GB for Aster offers. Simultaneously, there are fewer offers with low transfer limits - only PTC and Aster currently offer limits lower than 1 GB.
The structure of consumer expenditure has not changed. For post-paid offers, some 64 to 100 per cent of monthly spending on service usage can be attributed to subscription costs, while 16% to activation fees. Up to 29 per cent of an average user's monthly spending can be consumed by repayment of a modem or card purchased, although it should be stressed that there are devices available for 1 PLN for most offers in the market. Unfortunately, in the average monthly basket the user will practically see no difference even if granted promotional lower subscription, which is the consequence of a the above-mentioned tendency to limit the number of months covered by lower fees. Only for business clients using Play Online 5GB where the promotional period lasts 4 months, this share equalled (as much as 1) per cent. In addition, promotional offers do not always lead to overall lower usage costs in the 2-year period than standard flat-rate tariffs for the whole period.
For pre-paid customers, the offers are much more differentiated. If an operator fails to offer a device at a promotional price, the customer has no choice but to buy it at a regular price. Such situation applies to the customers of iPlus card offer, who must designate as much as 81 per cent of their average monthly spending on repayment of a start-up kit including a modem/card purchased outside the framework of any promotions. As a result, the whole Polkomtel's offer is least beneficial in the market from the perspective of monthly costs for the users (as much as PLN 78 including VAT). In case of other networks, the share of start-up kits including devices was as follows: 57 per cent for Orange Free, 37 per cent for blueconnect and 25 per cent for Play Online in the monthly cost of an activated service. In all of the quoted cases, the remaining cost includes top-ups.
As regards monthly spending on mobile Internet services, the best pre-paid offer is still available at PTC - for PLN 28 including VAT, followed by Play with PLN 36 including VAT. However, the Play Online service is cheapest as regards efficient price per data transfer unit. P4 offers to their customers the lowest cost for 1 MB usage (PLN 0.01 including VAT). The second brand in this benchmark, i.e. Orange, may boast its cost at the level of PLN 0.04 / MB including VAT. For iPlus and blueconnect the costs are by several dozen times higher. The advantage of Play Online and Orange Free card offers consists primarily in higher transfer top-up limits than offered by competitors. The Play network in addition offers the cheapest start-up kit including a modem.
For post-paid offers addressed to individual customers the situation is more differentiated. In offers up to 5 GB and from 5 to 10 GB the lowest monthly fees are paid by customers who have chosen the Play Online offer (respectively PLN 32 and 59 including VAT). The Play network operator does not offer higher limits, for which the Orange network is the leader. Offers with the limit between 10 and 20 GB and the lowest monthly cost equal to some PLN 112-113 including VAT can be found under iPlus tariffs and Orange Free, while for the limit exceeding 20 GB only under Orange Free - again for some PLN 113. Business customers who choose a service with a limit up to 5 GB should use the blueconnect offer (starting from PLN 27 including VAT / month), with a limit from 5 to 10 GB - the Play Online offer (starting from PLN 59 including VAT / month), with a limit from 10 to 20 GB - the iPlus offer (PLN 109 including VAT / month), with a limit exceeding 20 GB - the Orange Free offer for PLN 113 including VAT as for individual customers. It is worth stressing that disproportions between efficient prices for 1 MB of service are not so significant in post-paid offers. In this case average market rates range from PLN 0.01-0.02 including VAT / MB. The exception is offers from PTC and Aster, which as a result of applying the above-mentioned low transfers have effective rates at a level that is between 10 and 20 times higher.
In the second half of 2009, mobile penetration was still growing to reach the level of some 5.5 per cent in January 2010. As early as in December last year more than half of respondents in a survey commissioned by UKE said that they used the Internet during the last month. However, the survey did not relate only to mobile services. The three major domestic mobile providers qualified as the five best recognizable brands.
During the analysis an improvement in handling customer lines was observed. The amount of incoherent or false information significantly reduced compared to August 2009. Consultants showed much more patience during conversations frequently exceeding 30 minutes. However, there are still inconsistencies between information available on Internet websites and via telephones. Moreover, information available on main Internet websites did not correspond to the information published in tariff pages or rules and regulations for the provision of services containing complicated provisions that may pose problems even for consultants. Therefore the President of UKE intends to conduct further monitoring on the occasion of subsequent analyses of mobile Internet prices and other services in mobile networks.
The report is available in Polish.