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Old 01-06-2006, 12:29   #1
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Cell phone coverage in the Bahamas


Can anyone recommend a carrier that has descent cell coverage in the Bahamas. I realize there is not a perfect solution, just looking for the most reliable. I was planning on going with a globalstar satellite phone but was told by a buddy who just got back that the coverage is lousy and not worth it. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Dave
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Old 01-06-2006, 15:04   #2
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Batelco!!!

Hate to say it as they're the worst telephone company in the world, well at least in the western hemisphere but they're really the only game in town. Verizon users report some success but it doesn't work in Georgetown. Globalstar is not too bad but you get a lot of drops and you have to run all around the deck trying to get the best angle to the satellites. It seems to be difficult to carry on a long conversation with Globalstar. Of course, the Bahamas covers a lot of territory and if you can get online, Skype's your best bet. Haven't been to the Abacos for a few years but the internet service there is about the best for the Bahamas. Nassau is ok for getting online but once you get to the Exumas it's pretty spotty and very slow. If you have to keep in touch, Globalstar's your best bet.
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Old 02-06-2006, 07:42   #3
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Some cruisers use Cingular but you get charged an international rate that is abusive.

The easiest thing to do is buy a "quick cell" phone from DATELCO when you get there. Then you can buy blocks of prepaid minutes. The phones go for about $80 and then international minutes are $0.51, within Bahamas $0.41. At over $2.00 for the same minutes from your US carrier, you will pay for that phone in about 60 minutes of calling.

You can take your own phone in for activation, but there are extra hoops to jump through there. The activation is $70 so buy their phone for the few extra bucks. I failed in activating my old Verizon phone becuase Verizon had "locked" it so BATELCO could not activate.

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Old 02-06-2006, 09:27   #4
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Last year, about this time, in the Abacos we had difficulty getting a cell signal. Many of those times we were within a 1/4nm of a Batelco tower. When we inquired at the Batelco office in Marsh Harbor we were told many of the towers had been damaged in the Hurricanes the year before and had not been put back into service. Hopefully that is no longer the case.
My crew mate was using the Cingular service, and you are right the rates are truly abusive. OK as an emergency phone, but you don't want to use it for anything else. He used it extensively having been misquoted the rate by Cingular. The bill for that month came to over $1200. Fortunately he had the miss-quote in writing and got the bill adjusted. Even then it was a big hit.
We had good WIFI coverage in Marsh Harbor at anchor and at the marinas. We also had good coverage in Hopetown, but nothing at Man-O-Way.

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Old 05-10-2006, 17:25   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tilmonday
Can anyone recommend a carrier that has descent cell coverage in the Bahamas. I realize there is not a perfect solution, just looking for the most reliable. I was planning on going with a globalstar satellite phone but was told by a buddy who just got back that the coverage is lousy and not worth it. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Dave
Dave,
Wrote to you last June. Nice to see from your blog that things have worked out well so far for you and crew of Dreamcatcher. We're getting ready to drive to Florida to pickup our new Manta42 - Calypso. Hope to make it to Bahamas by January. Maybe hook up with you there? Meantime big question - which satphone works best down there? I'm getting all kinds of mixed advice?

Cheers!
PhilPhil & MaryAnne von Stade
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Old 05-10-2006, 23:56   #6
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Used my Cingular phone around Nassau earlier this year:

Fairly good connection, but big bills to pay later.
Closer to $3.00 per minutte....
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Old 06-10-2006, 01:10   #7
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Mobile Phone Coverage

This is a little off the topic (geographically) but 2 years ago we were in Tahiti, and at every island we visited we were able to get a GSM signal. We had selected an international roaming feature with our provider in Australia prior to leaving, and while call costs were more expensive than if at home, it was certainly cheaper than the satallite phone option.

It was strange to be in a fairly remote part of the world, Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea, Huahine etc, and see the locals, some looking quite primative, but all with mobile phones.

I guess the cost and ease of setting up infrastructure is easier for mobile telephones. I suspect this will become the case elsewhere in the world.

Fair winds

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Old 06-10-2006, 05:00   #8
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I'll second Sunspot Baby's recommendation of a Batelco cell phone, with just a couple of caveats. DO NOT buy the phone in Nassau - the system there is different than in the out islands, and a phone bought there will not work in all other parts of the country. I believe Nassau is going to GSM, but it is not available farther out. Go at least as far as Staniel Cay before buying the phone.

Also, when you get to the Batelco office, they may tell you that the only phones they have available are in the hundreds of dollars. Tell them you are only interested in the eighty-something dollar phone. If they truly don't have one, you might want to use a prepaid phone card with the regular phones outside the Batelco office until you find an office with the lower priced cell phones.
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Old 06-10-2006, 05:32   #9
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Notwithstanding the following, Harriet offers good advice:

According to:
http://www.bahamas.com/bahamas/about...=23128&level=3

<quote>
The Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BaTelCo) has automatic roaming agreements with cellular carriers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. BaTelCo's roaming partners include Aliant Cellular, Ameritech Cellular, BCTEL Mobility, Bell Mobility, Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile, BellSouth Mobility, Blue Ridge Cellular, Cantel, Cellular Holding, Cellular One Bay Area Cellular, Cellular One of Illinois, Cellular One of Southwest Florida, Comcast Cellular, Crowley Cellular, Dansbury Cellular, Pioneer/Enid Cellular, MT&T Mobile, NBTel Mobility, Radiofone, 360_ Communications, Telcel, TELUS Mobility U.S. Cellular and Western Wireless.

If you have a prepaid cell phone that is currently on in the US (Erickson, Motorola or Nokia), BaTelCo charges a connection fee of $75.00 to provide service while on Grand Bahama Island; you will have to pay extra for minutes. Rates are 40 cents in the day and 20 cents at night. If you don't have a phone, you can purchase one for $199.00, with $45.00 worth of minutes.

If your home carrier has a roaming agreement with BaTelCo and your cellular number is active in The Islands Of The Bahamas, you can enjoy cellular service. Simply ensure that your phone is switched to system B and dial away!
<end quote>

More at: http://www.btcbahamas.com/flash_dete...rade_flash.php
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Old 06-10-2006, 06:13   #10
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We haven't been able to get any cell phone coverage in the Bahamas, and I am not aware of anyone else that does. What we have used to keep in touch is SKYPE. You can get internet connection all over Bahamas. You can talk over your computer stateside by just signing up for free skype and plugging microphone into your computer. Of course, the recipiant also has to sign up for Skype and have a microphone. It is great. We are now using it to keep in touch with our friends in the DR and PR. www.skype.com. As for SAT phone - the minutes are expensive and I don't think they are all that great. Our friends in the DR call us on theirs and the connection is hit/miss.
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Old 06-10-2006, 07:24   #11
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SKYPE is great, and we've used it South Africa and Mauritius and Europe. There is a new service called SKYPE-OUT that allows you to call regular phone numbers, cell numbers, etc at VERY cheap rates. I believe there is also a SKYPE-IN service that gives you a 'land' number in the US.

VONAGE has a REALLY incredible service which we now have used to replace our land-line. Cost is $25/month. Comes with a small box that you hook into a high-speed internet connection (ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!!!!), and you hook a phone into the other end. Your 'local' phone number is now THERE.... You can then call FREE anywhere in US, Canada and many parts of Europe. And folks can call you as if you were somewhere in the US on a landline. SKYPE and VONAGE are shaping the future of phone talk.

But, as we are just starting our cruising life, we feel the need to have a sat-phone backup for off-shore and out-of-cell and away-from-internet-cafe situations. Our supplier is telling us that Globalstar had 2 satellites knocked down by a meteor shower in March??! and service in Bahamas is almost non-existant, and that we should go with Iridium. ANYONE got thoughts on that?
Cheers!
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Old 06-10-2006, 08:46   #12
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Phil-
"VONAGE has a REALLY incredible service which we now have used to replace our land-line. Cost is $25/month. Comes with a small box that you hook into a high-speed internet connection (ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!!!!),"
The box is commonly called a "SIP", they are standard for VOIP providers and almost any VOIP service offers that same neat ability to plug them in worldwide and have your local phone number with you.
Vonage are certainly one of the bigger and better known players. I prefer VoicePulse, located and serviced out of NJ with native-US tech support. Pretty responsive, with plans starting at $14.95/month (500 minutes LD plus unlimited regional/local.)
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Old 08-10-2006, 12:04   #13
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LaLeLu wrote: "What we have used to keep in touch is SKYPE. You can get internet connection all over Bahamas." Are you referring to land line connections or wireless? If wireless, please discribe your complete system.

We will cross over to the Abacos in January and we're trying to determine how to stay in touch with our daughters. We use Skype with our DSL hookup now, but it is a land line.


Thanks for any help!!!
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Old 08-10-2006, 16:59   #14
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Skype works fine with WiFi, any broadband connection will do. WiFi should be obsoleted this or next year as WiMax and other stronger/faster versions of wireless broadband deploy now. (At least here in the US.)
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Old 09-10-2006, 05:43   #15
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In the iridium vs. globalstar debate, it is my understanding that iridium is far superior if you are going around the world. If you plan to stay in the Caribbean, globalstar is much more cost effective and useful. HOWEVER, lots of folks we met in the Exumas last year had significant trouble with dropped calls on globalstar. Then, again, an $89 Bahamian cell phone with a prepaid minutes card works great. Once you leave the Bahamas, you'll need the sat phone.
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