The OECD compared a variety of data roaming plans based on the amount of data users could send or receive when abroad, finding that rates could be as high as $US40 per MB For 1MB of data. The average price by country across the OECD is $US9.48 (based on purchasing power parity). Canadians travelling abroad pay the most ($US24.61), followed by Americans ($US22.06) and Mexicans ($US19.85). Greeks abroad pay the least ($US4.17), followed by people from Iceland $US4.42) and Luxembourg ($US.46). Australian's pay about $US12.00, well above the OECD average. New Zealanders fare somewhat better at $US10.00.
The report noted that Telstra and SFR of France are the only operators to charge per session fees for mobile data roaming access. SFR's charge, however includes the first 2MB of data.
The wide difference in prices, according to the report, can be explained by Greek mobile phone companies being charged less by wholesale operators than Canadian operators and passing those savings onto customers.
The OECD report concludes: "Current pricing levels indicate that there is, in general terms, either insufficient retail or wholesale competition." It notes that wholesale data roaming charges have been regulated in the European Union and the European Economic Area, but says this has had only modest impact on retail prices. "Both retail and wholesale prices have declined in Europe, with average wholesale rates around half of the regulated average cap. Nevertheless, the retail margin has widened, which highlights a possible lack of effective competition in this market."
The report is the OECD's third into mobile roaming charges, but the first to examine mobile data. In April 2010 the OECD issued a second report on international mobile roaming charges, looking specifically at ways to combat the high charges. It concluded: "This report acknowledges that directly regulating roaming prices may be the only way to guarantee that consumers are not unreasonably charged."
Meanwhile the Australian and New Zealand Governments in April launched a formal investigation into trans-Tasman mobile roaming rates. It will culminate in a decision by the two governments on whether there is a competition problem and, if so, whether regulatory intervention is required.
The OECD data collection was conducted from the 7 September to 7 October 2010 from rates advertised on the operators' websites. It covers data roaming prices of the two largest operators from each of the 34 countries of the OECD. Prices for roaming on the least expensive visited network in a given country were used for comparison. Only retail charges for post-paid subscribers were collected. Cost elements collected and considered include one-off charges, traffic charges, per-session fees, monthly charges, etc. Value added or other taxes, if applicable, have been included in comparisons. Only standard residential offers have been considered.