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Why are mobile plans in Norway so expensive?

Compared to those in neighbouring countries, the prices of mobile plans in Norway are pretty high. Here's why.

Mobile phone
The price of mobile service plans in Norway is quite high – even compared to prices in other Scandinavian countries. Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Once you move to Norway, getting a Norwegian phone number will likely be among the first items on your to-do list.

After some research and comparison of different plans, you’ll quickly realise that the price of mobile services in the country is quite high – even compared to prices in other Scandinavian countries.

The most recent study on the issue, carried out by the Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom), stated that the price of mobile services is so high compared to neighbouring countries that there is a need to regulate the mobile market in Norway.

Key drivers of high mobile prices

The Norwegian mobile services market is characterised by what many describe as a duopoly – Telenor and Telia (which also own several other mobile providers) have a highly dominant position in the marketplace.

On top of that, mobile service customers in Norway are quite reluctant to change their providers.

According to the Communications Authority, Norwegian end users of mobile plans are generally most concerned with mobile coverage when choosing a mobile services company, and surveys show that Telenor’s customers have strong preferences for Telenor’s network, which means that many do not want to switch to other providers.

Furthermore, the cost of developing infrastructure in Norway is considerably more expensive than in neighbouring countries.

In 2021, Telia Norge stated that, according to European Union (EU) calculations, “it is between 30-60 per cent more expensive to build infrastructure in Norway than in Sweden.”

Lastly, as operators often point out, customers have to pay high prices because the network in Norway is characterised by high speeds.

What can be done?

The Norwegian Consumer Council believes that only increased competition in the market can reduce the price difference between Norway and the rest of the region.

As any new competitor would also need to deal with the high expenses of building new infrastructure – often in areas where the customer base doesn’t justify such investments – the consumer watchdog is calling for the dominant players to share some of their infrastructure with would-be challengers.

Unless competition increases, the situation is likely to stay the same.

“Telenor still has a strong market position in Norway, and no other mobile provider in Norway or our neighbouring countries has as good earnings per customer as Telenor in Norway,” Inger Vollstad, section head at Nkom, noted in a recent press release.

Need for regulation?

As the authority for the sector, Nkom is charged with ensuring that Norwegian consumers receive good and affordable mobile services.

The authority’s most important goal when it comes to regulating the mobile services market in Norway is to facilitate a third competitive mobile network that can challenge the two established network owners, Telenor and Telia.

“In order to facilitate choice and reasonable prices for mobile customers, Nkom has imposed obligations on Telenor to provide access to its network.

“In this way, challengers who do not have their own mobile network can offer mobile services and contribute to competition in the retail market,” Vollstad said.

In any case, as duopolies are very hard to dismantle once market domination is in place, even regulatory action could take quite some time before end consumers feel the results in the form of lower prices and better offers.

How to find a cheaper deal

Remember, the fact that the general price level of mobile plans is high does not mean you should just accept the first plan you see.

Compare prices between different providers before you commit, and make sure of comparison sites (such as Fornye) to get a good market overview. That way, you’ll be sure to get a better deal.

Negotiating with your current provider is also an option. If you’re unhappy with the price, call them up and ask them for a better deal. This works particularly well if you can point to a better deal from a competitor and threaten to leave them.

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How much money does it cost to live in Norway? 

Norway is equally known for good wages and a high cost of living. So, what is the typical budget for a family, couple and single person in Norway, and how does it change based on your circumstances? 

How much money does it cost to live in Norway? 

Generally known for being expensive, Norway has seen the cost of living in the country increase over the past 18 months thanks to high food and energy prices driving inflation. 

For example, the price of the most important food and drink products has risen twice as much as general inflation, according to SIFO, an institute for consumer research. 

Their figures are based on the cost of the average shopping bill, which allows for a well-balanced diet with essential everyday products. 

Meanwhile, the consumer price index (CPI) in Norway, which measures inflation, shows that prices have risen 6.4 percent in Norway over the past year

Whether you weigh up moving to the country, already live in Norway or are simply curious about how much of the oft-talked-about high salaries are eaten by salaries, SIFO publishes annual reference budgets, which crunch the numbers on living costs in Norway

SIFO uses a robust calculating method to figure out a rough reference budget for someone based on their age, earnings, whether they have a partner or children and what kind of car they drive. 

For example, a single man aged between 20-30 years old with no partner or children and who doesn’t drive a car is expected to have monthly outgoings of 12,293 kroner (excluding tax) if they earn the average salary of 53,150 kroner per month

The budget also does not include rent either. Rent prices in Norway vary between cities. In Bergen, it costs roughly 9,500 kroner a month for a one-room apartment compared to 11,950 kroner for a place of the same size in Oslo. Renting a room in a flatshare is also popular among younger people and is significantly cheaper than renting an entire apartment. 

The budget does include food and drink, clothing, personal care, leisure and media use, travel, furniture, other groceries and household items. Food is the most considerable expenditure in this example budget, costing 4,540 kroner a month. Meanwhile, the clothing and travel budget cost 900 and 853 kroner respectively. 

Social activities and media use were the next most significant expense after groceries, costing 1,650 kroner a month in the individual-specific section of the reference budget. Regarding household-specific expenses, media use and leisure were the biggest expenses, with an estimated expenditure of 2,160. 

Somebody of the same age in the same situation but earning around 20 percent less (43,150) kroner per month would have the same total expenditure, excluding taxes and rent. Therefore the main difference would be disposable income after expenses, taxes and rent. 

Meanwhile, a woman earning the average salary in Norway would have a lower monthly expenditure than a man, spending 11,623 kroner per month. The main differences between the two are a higher grocery bill for men and the woman spending more on personal care. 

Should the man and the woman meet, fall in love and move in together, they would spend on average 23,271 kroner per month, according to the reference budget. The food bill rises to 7,890 kroner per month for two people living together. The clothing, personal care, and travel budgets are essentially double compared to a single person, dealing a death blow to the old saying “two can live as cheaply as one”. 

Money spent on free time, leisure and media would total more than 5,000 kroner, while it would cost the couple 3,000 kroner to run a car. However, if they chose to run an electric vehicle, the cost of running a car would drop by 1,000 kroner a month. 

The expenditure in the reference budget mostly stayed the same if the earnings were pushed up to reflect both people in the relationship earning close to the average wage. 

Provided the relationship is going well, and the woman were to fall pregnant, the expenditure for the couple would increase by over 4,000 kroner to 27,801 kroner. This is because the couple would begin spending around 3,880 kroner a month on stuff for the baby. At this point the ages of the two people has been moved to being between 30 and 51. 

Once the baby is born, the monthly budget would swell to 30,871 kroner by the time the baby is between six and eleven months old. The couple’s food, clothing and personal care budget would see the largest rises. The food bill for a family with a baby is 9,620 kroner a month compared to 7,890 kroner a month for the couple when they’d just moved in with each other.

For a family with an annual household income of a million kroner (which means both parents earn close to the national average) and one school-age child signed up for after-school activities (SFO), and a toddler with a full-time kindergarten place who uses a car, the monthly reference budget is 37,826 kroner per month

The food bill would total around 13,000 kroner each month, while clothes, personal care, leisure time and media use would set the family back just over 10,000 kroner per month. Travel for the family (excluding car running costs) comes in at a hefty 2,133 kroner a month, while equipment for the toddler would set the family back around 3,880 kroner a month. 

After-school activities would cost 1,108 kroner per month, and money spent on other groceries and household items would be 1,350 kroner each month. Meanwhile, leisure and media use for the household would set the family back an additional 2,300 kroner.