|Cell phone Service and Coverage in Mexico
Cellular service in Mexico has improved drastically within the past couple of years. In the past however, cell phone coverage has been lacking as well as expensive. This has caused for great frustration for US travelers vacationing or doing business in Mexico. While there is still a lot of confusion regarding compatibility as well as rates, there currently are solutions that are convenient and affordable.
In Mexico, the predominant cellular service company is called Telcel, currently owned by Carlos Slim. Telcel uses the GSM networks on the 850 and 1900 bands – which is the same frequencies that GSM carriers use in the United States and Canada. AT&T and T-Mobile cell phones, since they use GSM, are therefore compatible in Mexico. Verizon and Sprint have limited reception as they use CDMA.
However, if you simply roam in Mexico with your current cell phone, you will get charged for astronomical roaming fees, particularly for data. The best approach is to use a pay as you go SIM card that was designed specifically for use in Mexico. The Mexico SIM card offered by Cellular Abroad features a US cell phone number and rates of $0.25 for calls received and made within Mexico as well as back to the United States. The initial SIM card comes with 60 minutes of talk time and is easy to add talk time to – simply call a toll free number to speak to an AT&T representative and, using your credit card, have them add additional call credit in $15, $25, $50 or $100 denominations.
Another solution is to purchase a pay as you go Telcel Mexico SIM card once you are in Mexico. This will give you a Mexican cell phone number. While local calls will be less than the above mentioned SIM card sold through Cellular Abroad, calls to the US exceed $1.00 per minute.
If you do not have a cell phone that is compatible for use in Mexico, you can either purchase one or rent one. It is advisable to purchase a cell phone if you are staying in Mexico for a month or longer, or visit frequently. If this is a short visit, Cellular Abroad will rent you a cell phone with a SIM card that is compatible for use in Mexico.
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.