The average global price for high-speed internet connections is less than half what it was just two years ago, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
The ITU published its 2010 ICT Price Basket (IPB) on Monday, also showing that consumers and businesses around the world are, on average, paying 18 percent less for entry-level ICT services than they were in 2008. The IPB suggested that ICT services were cheapest in the richest countries, but also showed the steepest price drops to have taken place in Africa.
According to the ITU, relative prices for mobile phone services fell by almost 22 percent from 2008 to 2010, while fixed telephony costs fell by an average of seven percent.
"With ICTs now a primary driver of social and economic development, these results are highly encouraging," ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said in a statement. "Our next challenge is to find strategies to replicate the 'mobile miracle' for broadband, which is fast becoming basic infrastructure. Countries without affordable broadband access risk falling quickly behind."
The ITU's price basket measures fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband internet services, and is worked out as a percentage of average per capita gross national income (GNI), in order to be an index of affordability.
"People in high-income countries pay relatively little for ICT services, while those in the world's poorest countries pay relatively more," the ITU statement read. "All the economies at the top of the ICT Price Basket (indicating most affordable ICT services) have high GNI per capita, including many small economies, such as Monaco, Macao (China), Liechtenstein, Hong Kong (China) and Singapore."
According to the index, ICT prices correspond to less than one percent of GNI per capita in much of Europe, North America and Asia, but an average 17 percent of GNI in "developing countries".
Steep price drops in developing countries were responsible for an overall fall in fixed broadband prices, the ITU said. "However, it should be noted that steep price drops often reflect the extremely high cost of broadband in developing countries," the telecoms industry organisation added. "Even at half the price, the service is often still far beyond the pockets of average citizens."