|Cell phone Service and Coverage in Mexico
Today, while cell phone service is Mexico is generally very good, historically, there have been a couple of major set backs establishing an adequate cellular phone system within Mexico. This has caused for great frustration for US travelers vacationing or doing business in Mexico. First and most foremost, Mexico made the costly mistake of utilizing the same cellular system that dominated the USA and Canada a few years ago. Apparently, Mexico planned on being able to capitalize on American travelers "roaming" or borrowing the Mexican cellular system while on vacation or otherwise to Mexico. The main problem with this is that the roaming agreements between the US and the Mexican carriers were extremely expensive a well as unreliable. That expense, of course, got passed on to the consumer who was not willing to pay for expensive yet unreliable cellular service. Since then, many carriers in the US have opted to switch over to GSM, the cellular platform that is in use in over 200 countries.
The second set back is that there is one dominant cellular company in Mexico that services the entire country. With no real competition to speak of, local users don't have much choice of who to chose as their provider, which means that if they need a cell phone, they will pay the rates that that provider is asking. Luckily, cellular coverage has improved significantly and is continuing to do so.
Telcel, the largest Mexican cell phone provider, has quickly been able to upgrade its network to the GSM system and is continuing to extend its coverage to even rural areas. Still, since there is not much competition from other providers in Mexico, prices remain fairly steep. Regardless of the high expense, many Mexicans still do carry cell phones. This is partially due to the fact that all it can be less expensive than land line fees, as well as because in some areas there is no landline infrastructure and thirdly, it has become a necessity as well as a status symbol.
In Mexico, the majority of cellular users have opted to use a prepaid or pay as you go system. This way, they are in complete control of how much they spend and there are no minimum fees, bills or monthly charges. While cell phones have penetrated virtually the entire spectrum of the population regardless of the socio-economic level, economically disadvantaged users only use their phones for sparingly or even only for emergencies. Another way they have found to cut expenses is to send SMS messages. SMS messages are brief text messages that can be sent to a cell phone either from another cell phone or via the computer. In fact, the home page of Telcel has an option to send free messages from the computer to a Telcel cell phone user. The person on the receiving end does not pay to receive SMS messages. This means that a person in the US can send messages for free to someone in Mexico who is using Telcel.
For travelers going to Mexico, the least expensive option of having a cell phone to use is to do what the locals do - use the local carrier, have a local number and pay the local prices - which for most vacationers or business travelers going to Mexico, the rates are quite reasonable. Also, coverage is quite good and in most tourist areas such as Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Acalpulco, Guadalajara, Mexico City and so forth, your coverage should be comparable if not better to what you may expect in major US cities.
Cellular Abroad offers cell phone rentals as well as international cell phone purchases. Whether you rent or purchase the cell phone, you need to purchase a SIM card that is specific for Mexico. A SIM card is a little chip that goes into the phone giving you cellular service, your cell phone number and also keeps track of your call credit. SIM cards have initial call credit and when that credit is low our expired, you can easily and instantly add more call credit by purchasing a scratch off voucher at a convenience store in Mexico and entering a pin code into that handset. Unless you don't plan on traveling again, the vast majority of people prefer to purchase an international cell phone over renting one. That way, in over 200 countries worldwide, they only need to insert a prepaid SIM card in order to take advantage of the local rates. Furthermore, if they use a GSM carrier in the US, they can also use the phone with their local US carrier. Many US carriers offer international GSM phones. However, the carriers "lock" the phones into being able to only use their specific SIM card. The reasoning behind this is that you will be forced to use their service and pay their expensive rates while traveling internationally.
Ideally, it makes sense to purchase an unlocked GSM cell phone for international use and use that phone as your primary phone in the US with your GSM carrier. When you travel to Mexico or any other country, you just slip in the SIM card for that country in order to take advantage of the local rates. For more information including rates, please click on the prepaid SIM card section for Mexico.