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ICE to Discontinue TDMA Cell Phones in 2009

June 15th, 2008

Those of you who live in Costa Rica are probably quite familiar with the cellular phone system here and most of you are also aware of just how lousy is the GSM system in particular. TDMA is still the only reliable system here in Costa Rica.

To provide a bit of background for newcomers, visitors and tourists, there are currently two cell phone systems here in Costa Rica. The first, TDMA , often referred to as “the old system” and GSM, “the new system”. New is better, right? Often true, but in this case… totally not true.

The GSM system was installed some years ago by Alcatel, a French company under contract to ICE the government-run monopoly that controls all telecommunications in Costa Rica. Apparently not satisfied with just trying to win this huge contract in a competitive manner, Alcatel decided to spend some cash in order to bribe some key decision makers in ICE and in the Costa Rican government. About $11 million as I recall! This was also distributed to at least two and probably three ex-Presidents of Costa Rica, two of whom spent some time in prison for accepting these bribes, and a third who is currently hiding out in Switzerland, unable and apparently unwilling to return to Costa Rica for fear of also passing a few hours in the slammer.

This is important to know because the GSM system installed by Alcatel simply did not and still does not work well at all… and it will soon be the only system available.

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