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Cell Phone Communication in the Abacos AND Exumas

We are teaching a Cruise Planning class for the USPS and have several class members who are heading to the Bahamas this year. They have questions about using their current cell phones. We have told them about purchasing a SIM card in the Bahamas for their phones and they are good with that. But they would like to know what coverage they will have WITH the SIM card. How close do the need to be to a BATELCO tower with the cell phone with the SIM card installed. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are all represented in the class. We have also told them about phone cards, but they are really wanting to make sure that they are covered while they are on the boat without going to the expense of a satellite phone.

7 Responses to Cell Phone Communication in the Abacos AND Exumas

  • krill says:

    The biggest concern about the phones working here in the Bahamas is that they must be unlocked GSM phones. Verizon phone are not GSM technology and will probably not work with a BTC SIM card. Most phones provided by service providers are locked into their network and a code has to be entered into the phone to allow it to use other networks. This is a separate software issue unrelated to the SIM card.

    To answer your other question, the range is more dependent on the phone itself, but you will find in most cruising areas there is little trouble getting a signal, in the Abacos. In the Exumas you will need to be within a few miles of the tower either on Highborne, Staniel, Black Point, Farmers Cays or Great Exuma. We find that sometimes we don;t have service inside the boat but if we stand out on deck the phone works fine. I have found an inexpensive prepaid T-mobile phone from Wal-Mart of the like which was unlocked after purchase works very well. In fact the cheaper phones seem to have better range than some of the really fancy ones.

    Good Luck.

  • mjorgensen says:

    Thank you so much for your VERY COMPLETE answer. This is exactly the information I need. Class meets Tuesday so thank you for your very quick response.
    Marilyn Jorgensen
    s/v Blue Goose

  • Auspicious says:

    Just adding to krill’s comment:

    Verizon definitely won’t work; Sprint won’t either. Both use CDMA which is only supported by BATELCO in Nassau (for the cruise ship passengers I guess). AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, as does most of the rest of the world. I called AT&T (my service provider in the US) and explained I was traveling overseas and would like to use a local SIM. They gave me the unlock code for my phone free.

    When phone shopping it will serve you well to get a quad-band GSM phone – the hardware will work just about anywhere in the world.

  • Jusdreaming says:

    so does that mean my “trac phone” would work? If I change the SIM card

  • mjorgensen says:

    Thank you, Auspicious. Such great information to have BEFORE leaving the U.S. We will share this with the class tomorrow.

    John and Marilyn
    s/v Blue Goose

  • mixman says:

    I wish I would have made this comment before you had your class. I’ve made 3 cruising trips through the Abacos and have had great success with my Verizon phone. The above statements that Verizon devices will not work in the Bahamas is not entirely true. Verizon “Global” devices will work. These devices work on both CDMA networks (used by Verizon and Sprint state-side) and GSM networks abroad as they contain a SIM card. Verizon cusomters of a few months or more in good standing can ask for a SIM unlock code so that a BATELCELL SIM can also work in the device. Otherwise, simply activate the global roaming feature by calling Verizon and the phone will work on BATELCELL, albeit at a rate of $1.99/minute. However, it is Verizon’s data plan that is the great value. For $60/month (pro-rated if your stay is less), enjoy unlimited e-mail and web browsing via a roaming agreement with BATELCELL. Granted, speeds are slow (around 60-80k) in most areas, but it’s quite acceptable on a smartphone for e-mail. With my cellular amplifier and 4′ external antenna, I’ve been able to receive signal even at Great Sale (although Allens is a complete dead spot). With luck, I’ll be testing this system out in a few months in the Exumas.

    Note: If you take a Verizon smartphone abroad, either keep it turned off or subscribe to the $60/month data plan. Last year my data plan somehow got switched back to a state-side plan 2 days before we crossed back. The per-use data charges were over $90 for those 2 days, and that was just e-mail! I was easily able to get the full amount credited back to my account, but that’s only because I was subscribed to the Global Data Plan in the first place:


  • mixman says:

    Whoops! While my above information about Verizon Global devices working in the Bahamas, strike my data plan rates. I just called to verify and the $60/month unlimited e-mail and web for smartphones is no longer available for global usage. The data rates are now limited:

    $30.00 Monthly Access: 25MB ($.005/KB or $5.12/MB after allowance)
    $100.00 Monthly Access: 70MB ($.005/KB or $5.12/MB after allowance)
    Pay Per Use Plan: $0.02/KB

    CDMA Standard Roaming Per Minute Rate: $1.99
    CDMA Value Plan Roaming Per Minute Rate $1.99
    GSM Standard Roaming Per Minute Rate: $1.99
    GSM Value Plan Roaming Per Minute Rate: $1.99

    I used 350MB last year for our annual month-long trip. I guess I’ll be cutting WAY back on that this year!

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