Data usage rises for all mobile operators, but less than half increase ARPU


In 2018, data usage per SIM grew for all mobile operators ranked in tefficient’s latest analysis. Of this, 46% were able to convert this rise in data usage into average revenue per user (ARPU) growth, while 54% could not.

Of the 90 ranked global operators, eleven reported monthly SIM usage of above 10 GB.

Zain Kuwait has toppled DNA Finland from the top spot for global data usage, with an average consumption of 21.5 GB of data per SIM each month. Successfully converting usage growth into revenue growth, Zain offers unlimited data-only plans for €46  – alongside smartphone plans with up to 1 TB of data (with a hefty price of €116 EUR). There are cheaper options too – but still with very large data buckets.

DNA, now ranked second, saw a rise in average SIM usage per month from 15.9 GB in 2017, to 20.8 GB in 2018. Unlimited, speed-tiered, plans – both for data-only and smartphones – are popular in the Finnish market. DNA doesn’t report how large a share of its base has unlimited plans, but in Finland as a whole,  67% of non-M2M SIMs are unlimited.

Drei (Three) remains in third position, with the company carrying 43% of Austria’s total mobile data traffic in Q3 2018. This market share has fallen due to competitors A1 and T-Mobile muscling-in on the data-only home segment.

Speed tiers

Fourth place is Elisa from Finland (17.2 GB per SIM per month in 2018), Zain from Bahrain (16.5 GB) at number five.  Taiwan Mobile (16.2 GB), FarEasTone Taiwan (16.0 GB) and Zain Saudi Arabia (15.5 GB) come in at six, seven and eight places respectively. Telia Finland is given ninth ranking, while Chunghwa from Taiwan is number 10 with 10.8 GB. 

The report notes that: “All three Finnish operators (DNA, Elisa and Telia) have been able to grow ARPU thanks to more and more customers upgrading to faster (and more expensive) speed tiers on their unlimited plans.” All three Lithuanian operators (Tele2, Telia, Bite) and the three large Russian operators (MTS, MegaFon, Beeline) were also able to grow ARPU while growing data usage.

The highest maturing-market operator is Jio from India, at number 11. While the company’s usage didn’t grow much in 2018, for most of 2017 the service was free.

“As data consumption is now monetised, it’s an achievement of Jio to defend and grow that usage,” the report notes. Jio continues to have significantly greater usage than other Indian operators.

Rankings from tefficient’s public analysis on the development and drivers of mobile data are based on average data usage per SIM, total data traffic and revenue per gigabyte in 2018.