Cell Phones

A lot people ask if their cell phone will work in T&C.  The answer is YES!

UPDATE FEB 2011: If your cell phone is Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, you name it- you can Roam in the TCI with ISLANDCOM WIRELESS. CDMA and GSM roamers can roam no problem on TCI's only 3G network.

New 3G Carrier Islandcom Wireless has opened the doors for CDMA roaming in the Turks & Caicos Islands. If you don't want to roam Islandcom also offers rental phones- so you can always be connected while on vacation and calls are only 20c per minute back to the USA. Incoming calls are of course free- and internet is available on all rental phones.

 Just make sure and speak with your local provider before you head off to TCI- you may need to punch in a code before you head off to be able to use the network.

If your cell phone:

  • is a GSM phone (in the U.S. your service provider would either be Cingular, AT&T Mobile, or T-Mobile)
  • and is unlocked
  • and has the capability for 850 MHz (used by Cable & Wireless) or 900 MHz (used by Digicel) 
    (C&W is the main telecom provider for both landline & mobile service on the island.)

Then your best bet if you make a bunch of cell phone calls is to buy a SIM card and prepaid minutes from C&W or Digicel once you get to T&C. 
You can buy the SIM card for around $20 which includes $10 worth of prepaid minutes from either the C&W office (located on Leeward Hwy), the C&W office on Queen Street Grand Turk, or their outlet at the IGA Supermarket.  You can also purchase a SIM card from Digicel.
This will give you a local T&C phone number and any calls you make on island will be billed at a local rate. 
Calling international is rather reasonable.

 

Make sure your phone is unlocked!  Most providers in the U.S. lock their phones to make it difficult to switch providers. 
You can call your service provider and ask them to unlock your phone.  Usually they will do so if you've been with them for a certain amount of time.

If you are looking to buy a GSM phone for your trip, splurge on a quad-band phone which will have 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz.  You will then be able to use this phone with a local SIM card in any other country that uses GSM technology.  You can usually pick one up on eBay for around $100.  Again, just be sure it is unlocked.

If you would like to read up more on the use of cell phones internationally, this article is sort of like a bible:
http://www.thetravelinsider.info/2002...

Now for some info specific to wireless providers in the U.S.:

Cingular Wireless (including AT&T Mobile since they are now part of Cingular) offers an international calling plan that will allow you to use your cell phone in T&C. 
Just call Cingular before you leave and ask them to add the World Traveler plan to your account. 
As of July 2006, it costs $5.99/mo and it gives you discounted roaming rates.  When you get back home, you can call to remove the plan from your account.   Some of the Cingular rate plans offer this package for free; that is, you don't pay the $5.99 extra, but calls of course from T&C still cost more than back home calls..

January 2008 Update:  Listen up Verizon Wireless customers!  It appears that VzW now has international roaming in T&C.  However, you need to have the global phone in order to be able to use it.  Most of the VzW phones are not GSM, as VzW uses CDMA technology.  So if you don't know if your phone is a "global phone", give VzW a call.

Sprint PCS appears to have service availability in T&C.  Your cell phone will need to be a specific phone and you need to call Sprint to activate the International Roaming plan before you go.

 

Calling Back Home

You have a couple of options.  You can call direct using the landline phone in your room and be billed by your resort. 

Or you can purchase a prepaid calling card at the C&W office, IGA, or pretty much at any of the mom&pop stores that you'll see on the island.

Another option is to use Skype if you will have your laptop with you and have access to a broadband connection (wired or wifi). 
Skype is a VOIP service that allows you to make calls to other Skype users, or to regular phone or cell phones anywhere.
All you have to do is download the Skype software to your laptop ( www.skype.com) and have a digital headset and microphone.
It costs something like 2 cents or so a minute.
This is a cheap option and has gotten some rave reviews.

Skype just very recently (July 2006) introduced some mobile phones which means you don't need to have a laptop with you, just Wifi conneciton.  The phones are still a bit pricey though, ranging from $189 to $300 according to the press release.

The major Instant Messaging services (Yahoo, Microsoft/MSN) offer similar 2 cents per minute calling.  It works great.

Happy travels and Happy ringing!  =)

Now Digicel competes with Cable & Wireless.  You can buy phones from $15-$30, plus $ amounts for the phones.   (While in stock, that's why the range.)  There are outlets for both companies all over the island, including IGA Supermarket and next to it.  With the $ amounts, it averages .35 cents a minute, plus the added luxury of having a cell phone with you wherever you go.  Unlimited incoming calls from anywhere are free, with no roaming charges.