The solution to internet while cruising in Mexico: The Banda Ancha. “The Banda what?”, you ask. The Banda Ancha Movil, also known as the ‘Telcel Stick’.
Before we heard of the popular B.A., we were trying to figure out how to ensure quality internet access on board. We thought about getting a wifi antenna with booster to “borrow” wifi from marinas and hotels, but then we realized that we wouldn’t always want to be near marinas or hotels. And there’d also be the awkward hassle of having to surreptitiously find out the WEP password every time. We know we want to get a single side band radio (through which you can send and receive emails), but we’re not quite ready for that yet.
Once we were ‘in the know’, our first Banda Ancha was purchased in Puerto Vallarta. It’s a great deal: $399 (that’s in pesos, people, which amounts to approx $30 CDN) for 5 GB, or roughly 2 months, of service. Not bad! Actually, pretty darn good! Much better than our internet bill with Rogers at home. It only works when you’re within range (so not on passages), but it’s better than nothing.
We didn’t know about the “roughly” 2 months part until we ran out of internet late last week. Uh oh. As much as we’d love to break free and live with no connections to the outside world, our cruising experience depends on us being connected.
It’s okay, we’re back in Marina de La Paz until tomorrow morning, so we were able to use the wifi connection there– which, it turns out, completely sucks! Try writing a blog post with a bad internet connection… it is frustratingly painful. I probably re-wrote the same sentences and made the same edits three or four times as my work kept being lost. And uploading pictures is a whole other story.
So this morning, bright and early, we walked up to the Telcel store to reload (normally you reload by cell phone , but we don’t have one) and to purchase an additional Banda Ancha. The solution to marital harmony on a boat in Mexico: TWO Banda Anchas.
Our experiences at the Telcel “Centros de Atención a Clientes ” have been interesting. Air-conditioned… nice! Well organized displays… good. Confusing practices… of course. Today there were 22 navy suit/white shirt uniformed customer service attendants and an additional 3 cashiers. There were long line ups in various areas of the store, but only about half of the attendants had customers at their booths. When you enter the ‘Centro de Atención’, you’re supposed to report to the reception desk (which we’ve missed on both our visits and been sent back to) to explain what you need. You are then assigned to a line up or specific booth (we’re not really sure how it works). I think we got lucky today because we were assigned straight to the one guy who spoke (some) English.
We explain, again, to the young and friendly representative what we are hoping to do: reload our first Banda Ancha and purchase a second one. After typing away furiously for a few minutes he hands us our first bill and directs us to pay at the cashier station. We do so. Next we want to buy the second device. More furious typing… about 20 minutes of it, followed by an apology: “Perdon, the connection is very slow” (Umm, isn’t this a telecommunication company?!) Printing of three receipts, instructions for us to go back to the cashier to pay, again. We go and wait in the cashier line, again. While we are waiting to pay this second bill, he doesn’t get a head start on the next customer (there are lots of people still waiting) but instead sits back and waits for us. We eventually make it back to him. More typing. More printing. And… okay, we’re ready to go. I should point out, proudly, that Will and I are totally cool throughout this entire 60 minute process – our former impatient selves are long gone.
While leaning up against his desk waiting, I had to ask the question that has perplexed me since we arrived in Mexico: “What does ‘Telcel es la Red’” mean?”, “Que es ‘la Red’?”
He laughs nervously and goes a bit red… this will be testing his English skills. “Okay”, he begins, “it is the slogan”.
“Yes, I see it written on all the billboards and ads. But I don’t really understand what ‘la Red’ is”
“Oh. It is ‘la Red’, color, the future. Big meeting in Cabo San Lucas about the 4G internet. Red”
Me, confused, “Hmm”, but not willing to test him any more. I’m the one who should know more Spanish!
I’ll have to get to the bottom of it another way.