OECD: Finns, Swedes and the Dutch have the lowest phone bills; Americans pay up to 484% more

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), people in Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands have the lowest phone bills, while people in Canada, America and Spain have the highest. The metric they used to collect their data was to identify three different usage patterns and to calculate what the total expenses over a period of one year would be:

  • Low Usage: 360 minutes per year of voice calls, 396 SMS, 8 MMS
  • Medium Usage: 780 minutes per year of voice calls, 600 SMS, 8 MMS
  • High Usage: 1680 minutes per year of voice calls, 660 SMS, 12 MMS

The data is in three spreadsheets which you can download here, but for the sake of argument let us take into consideration the medium usage scenario. People in the Netherlands and Finland pay the lowest, only $131.44 per year, Sweden is only marginally higher at $137.94. Americans pay the most at $635.85, but most surprising is how much cheaper the second most expensive country is, Spain, coming in at $508.26 and then Canada at $500.63. That would make the average mobile phone bill in Finland only $10.95 per month, while in America it would be $52.99, a difference of 484%! That number falls to 463% when you compare Finland and America at the low usage scenario, and drops even further to 319% in the high usage scenario.

I wonder what Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell C. McAdam has to say about these numbers, especially since he wrote a letter to the New York Times stating:

Among the 26 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Americans use the most wireless minutes per month, about four times more minutes than the average European consumer. Americans get the lowest cost per minute…an average of 10 cents lower per minute than Europeans pay.

A few weeks ago I asked IntoMobile what they pay for mobile service, and you responded with over 37 comments. Just to recap what I pay here in Finland: $25.09/month for unlimited data and 1000 text messages. I don’t have a voice plan since I hardly use more than 10 minutes a month, but when I do make calls it is $0.13 per minute. Oh and let us not forget that people in Europe do not pay for incoming phone calls and text messages.

[Image above via MacBlogz]

  • Snidely

    Stefan, I think the comment you made at the end is the most telling – Americans pay for incoming and outgoing calls. That distinction makes these types of comparisons useless unless this factor is controlled for. When the Verizon guys talks about how much Americans pay, he takes the total monthly bill and divides by the total number of minutes. To keep the “lies, damn lies, and statistics” adage true, he looks at the number of minutes available to Europeans, but fails to include the free incoming minutes. Vodafone UK is offering 300 mins and unlimited texts for £15 on contract (with a free phone). The closest AT&T or Verizon offer is 450 mins for $40. This would equate to 225 UK mins. Clearly the UK customers are getting lower prices. Not sure how the Verizon boss can delude himself so obviously.

    Also, did you find the usage levels in this study ridiculously low?

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      For people like me and you, yes these usage numbers are low. I’m sure for some people, like your mom, my mom, these numbers seem a bit high.

      It’s all perspective.

  • prashant

    i think you forgot about india we have call rates cheapest in the world. a call costs aboout 50paise/min.
    where 1$=Rs48
    1Rupee=100 paisa

  • bilbo_elffriend

    yeah, India really does have the cheapest cell fone rates i have heard of :

    Local calls are at 1 cent a minute, so are most local sms,
    incoming calls are free inside your circle.

    Long distant calls vary from 3-5 cents per minute.

    This study seems to cover only Europe and Americas

  • Tom

    Brazil was not included

    On the other end of India (also not included), I suspect Brazilians pay the HIGHEST phone bills

  • Allen

    What is the reason you don’t use any minutes? I mainly text, when you ask how I communicate with most people, but the people I do talk to – my wife, a couple of my mates – I use a lot of minutes. This, of course, is covered by my unlimited mobile to mobile, but I still talk.

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      different folks, different strokes. i like to contact people via sms. lots of folks call me, and that’s free 🙂

      • Allen

        I forgot about the incoming minutes, that makes sense. Pretty good plan, wouldn’t mind having that. Question – can all the carriers roam on each other’s network? In American, some can, some can’t – CDMA v GSM.

        • Stefan Constantinescu

          There is no CDMA in Europe, Europe invented GSM so that anyone on the continent could roam on different networks.

          • Allen

            That’s what I was thinking; so my question is, do the carriers have to spend as much money on cell tower expansion as they do here in America? And do the cell companies in Europe receive any government subsidies? I worked for Verizon and now work for AT&T. While I know they reap pretty hefty profits, I also know there is insane cost to run the businesses. Everything from marketing, expansion of new coverage and services, class-action lawsuits, plus the employees have excellent benefits and are paid fairly well. Sprint and T-Mobile have much lower access plans, but their coverage is horrible and and good luck finding a decent rep.

            Basically, I know why we are so expensive, why are your companies so inexpensive? And thanks for your time and article. We have forwarded it throughout the company, hopefully you are getting some decent hits.

      • agree 100%
        does ATT have a special rate for these countries?

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