Mobile DataAverage mobile Internet data rates in the world’s 20 cheapest markets dropped 17.7% on average from 3Q 2012-3Q 2013, according to a new report from ABI Research, driven lower in the main “by fierce competition and increased network capacity 4G roll-outs.”

ABI estimates that 38% of the lowest priced data plans worldwide are 4G tariffs. That compares to 21% a year ago, according to ABI’s “Mobile Data Price Tracker.”

Mobile data pricing may be dropping but data revenue is on the upswing, the result of “continued strong adoption and usage of smartphones and increased data applications,” ABI analysts point out. ABI forecasts total data revenue will reach $400 billion this year, a 14.3% increase from 2012, and will rise to $527 billion in 2018, 47% of total service revenue.

“In many markets, the access and the mobile data quota has become the principle unit of value for the customer,” ABI VP and practice director Jake Saunders was quoted as saying.

“For example, in August 2013, TELUS, based in Canada, launched two-year SharePlus data plans—1GB/2GB/3GB of data for US$ 28.6/42.8/47.6 that can be shared among the residents of a household. National calls to mobile and fixed-line numbers are free as is text messaging. While the tariff is a shared plan and voice calls and text are free, TELUS has been able to boost ARPU and overall service revenues in 2Q-2013. Operators AT&T, Rogers, and LG Telecom have also benefited from similar tariff strategies.”

Though they only accounted for 6% of tariff plans, multi-device shared plans’ share surged 20% higher quarter over quarter, ABI notes.

“Telcos has [sic] been steering their customers away from ‘All You Can Eat Data’ tariffs, which shrank 20% QoQ to 12%. Multiple Tiered Data Tariffs, where pricing varies on the amount of traffic sent, is still the most common model mobile telcos offer to their customers (66%).”

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