Colombia Wifi & Phone Report: Good Availability, Not-So-Good Bandwidth
|Written by Jessica on August 08, 2012|
This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General Availability: High
We went in loops in Colombia. It’s a huge country and after six weeks we barely scratched the surface. We started in Cartagena, then spent some time in the north around Tayrona National Park. Then we headed southeast to the mountain town of San Gil and to Villa de Leyva.
From San Gil we headed through Bogota to the Zona Cafetera (Manizales & Salento). We backtracked north for a week in Medellin before driving south through Cali to Popayan, Pasto and finally into Ecuador.
Internet availability is excellent. Almost every hotel, hostel and guesthouse had some type of connection. Most of the places we camped also had a hotel and restaurant attached. Usually the hotel or restaurant had wifi that we were allowed to use. With the exception of national parks, all of the campgrounds we stayed at had some sort of internet.
Although availability may be excellent, the speed and reliability was a mixed bag. Some places had incredibly fast broadband that stayed connected without hassle for several days. Other places had painfully bad coverage that would boot us off throughout the day. There was no pattern to these issues. We had excellent connections in remote towns, and crappy bandwidth in huge metro areas. We lost signal because of power outages in several places as well.
In more remote areas we found that the internet was powered by a 3G USB modem. This isn’t great for big uploads and downloads, but it is better than nothing.
There are several options for prepaid USB modems in Colombia. Both Comcel and Movistar sell prepaid modems for around 80,000 COP ($45 USD). We opted to stick with our prepaid modem, and in retrospect, that wasn’t the best choice. If you want decent speeds and good coverage, buy a Comcel prepaid modem.
We used a prepaid Tigo SIM card installed in our unlocked modem and were able to send text messages the sign up for a days worth of internet at a time. Technically we were signing up for a packet that was meant to be used on your cell phone, but we could connect with the modem regardless.
Because regular wifi was available almost everywhere, we found that we typically only used the modem when the hotel’s internet went down. However, the modem didn’t work nearly as well as it has in other countries. Bandwidth was very slow and we constantly had problems with it dropping signal.
We didn't always have problems with our modem. In the border town of Las Lajas we were able to setup our router and all three of us used the internet a blazing speeds. If you are going to try to setup an unlocked modem we recommend trying a service provider other than Tigo. Their coverage simply isn’t good enough in Colombia.
Cost for a Tigo SIM card was COP$20,000 at the Bogota airport. Considerably less anywhere else in the country. Tigo's rates are cheapest for calling the USA, at COP$400 ($.23) per minute. I never had a problem with connection. Note that to dial out you need to call 00414 + country code + number. This extra 414 number a way to get a discounted rate.
The Bottom Line
Internet is everywhere in accommodations and always free, although bandwidth can be questionable. If you need constant uninterrupted access, buy a Comcel prepaid modem.