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Surprise! The new GSM phones still don’t work!

December 18th, 2005

Costa Rica signed a contract with the Ericsen folks to update the GSM cell phone systems in Costa Rica. This was in the wake of the scandal that sent three ex-presidents to jail for allegedly accepting bribes from the French company that originally installed the OLD GSM system that never worked worth a hoot.

I have ranted in The Real Costa Rica and elsewhere that the GSM system here is pretty useless, so it was only fair that after the NEW and IMPROVED GSM system went into operation on the 5th of December this month, I take a GSM phone out for a test drive.

Whatta surprise! They STILL don’t work!

GSM is the “new” technology. The phones are more expensive and some are equipped to read email and browse the Internet. Sadly, those services do not work well either. They ARE more sexy though than the older TDMA technology.

My wife and I have been looking for new furniture for the patio, so I made about 10 trips throughout the Central Valley to various places where they make rattan, wicker and other stuff. I also dropped my wife at a hotel (Alta) and later retrieved her. In between, I returned home to where I live near Cariari. This gave me a great opportunity to test the new system.

For testing, I used a brand new Motorola GSM phone.

I found this new phone did not work in:

Santa Ana
San Antonio de Belen
Hotel Alta outside the reception area (outdoors)
The autopista general canas (Panamerican highway to Panama and Nicaragua) in numerous spots and
Numerous parts of Heredia.

It also did not work in my home, but worked in my driveway… sort of.

Side note: I also took my personal phone (TDMA technology) and that phone worked perfectly in every one of the locations above.

Not surprisingly, a recently published report indicates folks are not happy with the cell phone coverage and of course that means the NEW and IMPROVED GSM phones.

For those of you living or moving to Costa Rica and intend to buy a cell phone or those who intend to rent a cellphone for your trip here, INSIST on the OLD (but very much functional) TDMA phone. You will be very unhappy if you do not.

Exception! The area around Dominical is the exception! GSM phones actually work there, but the others do not.

6 Responses to “Surprise! The new GSM phones still don’t work!”

  1. The REAL Costa Rica Blog » Blog Archive » Extra Charge Coming for Cellular Internet Service on January 15, 2006 2:43 pm

    […] Up until now, if you really didn’t care too much about using a GSM phone here in Costa Rica, you could at least feel good that when you phone DID have service, you also had free Internet access so you could check emails and do some browsing. That will soon begin to costa (sorry… I had to!) money. ICE, your friendly local telecommunications monopoly is now seeking a charge 4,000 colones per month (about $8.00 US) for this access. As the New and Improved GSM phone service is supposed to provide better service, they may actually get some subscriptions from those who read and believe the publicity. […]

  2. Walter Rogers on September 25, 2006 1:55 pm

    Hello, I live slightly north of Dominical and use a Siemens C-55 cell at my home. We get acceptable reception there and are able to connect to the internet. I’m interested in buying a Repeater here in the States to boost the signal within our house. Does ICE GSM operate on 800, 900 or 1800 Mhz?

  3. Grady Lynn on February 19, 2007 10:40 pm

    I’m interested in buying a Repeater here in the States to boost the signal within our house. Does ICE GSM operate on 800, 900 or 1800 Mhz?

  4. maryann on November 3, 2007 8:20 pm

    We are looking for information on renting a cell phone for emergency since we will be in C.R. for 3 weeks,traveling around.

  5. Tim on May 13, 2008 12:32 am

    ICE GSM operates on 1800 MHz.

  6. Keith on July 13, 2009 9:51 am

    Can you please tell me the GSM settings for Costa Rica? I have a SIM Card but have not idea about the internet settings for GPRS or MMS etc.