Study: Americans pay too much for their LTE plans

American smartphone owners are taking a bath on LTE and 3G pricing compared to European mobile consumers, a new study indicates. Verizon Wireless subscribers pay $7.50 per gigabyte on that carrier’s LTE network versus an average of $2.50 in Europe, for example. Even more shocking: Sweden’s LTE users pay as low as 63 cents.

According to the London-based GSM Association, despite the U.S. being the largest LTE market in the world, Americans pay much more for the superfast wireless technology than anyone else. The reason boils down to fewer choices…

Until recently, Verizon Wireless and AT&T were the only mobile providers offering LTE. The technology is widely viewed as the successor to 3G and used in the iPhone 5 and other popular smartphones. By contrast, Europe has 38 LTE operators — even tiny Austria and Finland have more LTE options than the U.S., according to the New York Times.

Another reason for the pricing difference: U.S. mobile consumers are often forced to buy LTE as a package of other services. U.S. smartphone owners pay $115 per month for 3G while UK consumers pay $59, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Verizon Wireless counters that if a consumer purchased a data-only plan, the per-gigabyte charge would fall to $5.50. However, as the Times points out, that figure is still double the European average.

European and US smartphone owners also had a different introduction to mobile expenses. In the U.S., consumers were introduced first to relatively inexpensive wired landline service, then to mobile. By contrast, “European telephone behavior had developed in an environment of high prices,” resulting in fewer calls and mobile usage, the Times reports.

The Times suggests that the high price of LTE and 3G in the U.S. slows adoption of smartphone services. Do you agree? How large a factor is price when you shop for a smartphone carrier?