Mobile phone users in the U.S., Canada, Spain pay the most

The Wall Street Journal are reporting that out of 30 surveyed countries, cell phone users in the U.S, Canada, and Spain have the most expensive mobile phone bills in the world.

"People don't give up their cell phones. Many of us are on two-year contracts, and we can't just walk away from them," Taylor Reynolds, an economist with the OECD's Telecommunications and Internet Policy division, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "Mobile phone connections are seen as a necessity, not as a luxury."

According to a new report published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, revenue in the mobile phone sector is on the rise, despite the current economic downturn.

Mobile phones are becoming cheaper, and service is more readily available. However, there still remains a large gap in pricing and usage patterns around the world. Mobile phone service is generally cheaper in Europe compared to the United States, and users in northern Europe, especially those in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, are paying the least for their mobile phones and are therefore increasingly moving away from traditional land line phone service and relying more their cellular devices.

"Cell phones are cheap, and they see no reason to keep their fixed line," said Mr. Reynolds.

One European country that goes against the low-price trend is Spain. Buying a phone or a SIM card do not pose a significant cost , said Mr. Reynolds, but "but usage is very expensive."

Miguel Garzon, a spokesperson for Telefónica SA, says that "it is very difficult to compare the different types of plans in different countries." The Spain-based telecommunications company dominates the Spanish mobile phone market, but has a strong presence across Europe and Latin America.

One of the reasons why the U.S. and Canada are such expensive markets for mobile phone users is because, unlike in Europe, consumers in North America often pay to receive phone calls which leads to an increase in service fees. "You have to have a certain income level to afford it," said Mr. Reynolds.

Italy is where the most mobile phones are used, with 150 mobile phone subscribers for every 100 residents in the country. People have "multiple accounts, multiple SIM cards, multiple phones," said Mr. Reynolds.

Mexico, which is one of the fastest-growing mobile markets, still has the second-lowest mobile market penetration rate. Currently, a little over 60 out of every 100 people in Mexico own a cell phone. Canada presently has the lowest mobile-phone penetration rate from the list of countries surveyed.

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