The UAE has been ranked one of the most expensive places in the world for home internet access but has the fastest download speed in the region.
The average broadband package costs Dh577 in the UAE – the 13th-highest in the world at almost three dozen times the Dh18 cost of a home package in Ukraine, the cheapest country.
A leading industry analyst said there were good reasons why internet packages cost more in the UAE than in many other countries.
“When a country’s population is smaller than others it becomes more expensive per head to provide this level of service,” said Krishna Chinta, telecoms and networking manager with analysts International Data Corporation.
“Any country this size is going to face similar issues as there is only so much that can be done without affecting profit margins.”
The report, from the consumer website cable.co.uk, compared broadband prices in 195 countries.
The most expensive country was Mauritania, where the average monthly package was listed as the equivalent of Dh2,820 per month.
A similar study on mobile data this year from cable.co.uk said the UAE was charging more than 20 per cent more than the global average for 1GB of data.
The average cost of 1GB of data was estimated to be Dh31 and consumers in the UAE were said to be paying Dh37.50 for the same amount.
The cheapest country for mobile data was India, where you could get 1GB for Dh0.95. And the most expensive was Zimbabwe, where 1GB would set back customers Dh276.
“The UAE is not a heavily populated country but it is very well connected in terms of broadband,” said Mr Chinta.
“There are more connections in countries that have higher populations which helps them to drive down costs.
“This is essentially new-age technology with a new-age infrastructure.”
The World Bank estimated the UAE’s population to be 9.5 million at the start of this year.
A lack of choice for UAE consumers is another factor that contributes to the high price of broadband across the Emirates, Mr Chinta said.
“There are only two providers here in the UAE: du and Etisalat,” he said.
“Other countries have much more choice which helps to create competition, which results in prices being dropped.
“The regulators here have already made it clear they are happy with the two providers and have no plan to issue any more licences.”
The company also assessed the download speed in the UAE from May 2018 to this year. It found that the average was 9.62Mbps, meaning it would take about an hour and 15 minutes to download a 5GB movie.
In Taiwan, which was found to have the fastest internet speed at more than 28Mbps, the same movie would take just over eight minutes to download.
“Only the UAE, with its download speed of 9.62Mbps, offers an average speed significantly above 6Mbps [in the region],” the report said.
“No countries at all in the region reach 10Mbps or greater – the speed UK regulator Ofcom considers the minimum required to cope with typical household needs.”
Last month, Etisalat announced it was increasing the internet speed available to customers. The most basic package on the company’s website cost Dh359 per month and promised speeds of up to 50Mbps.
On the du website, the cheapest package is the Home Starter Plan that costs Dh299 and offers download speeds of up to 10Mbps. Du, Etisalat and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority were contacted for comment.