Here follows some feedback from an Abacos Newsgroup on cellphones. If you have any experience with your cellphones in Eleuthera, please email us, and we will collect reports of cell phone usage in Eleuthera; the Eleuthera reports are at the end of this page
Will my US cell phone work in Eleuthera?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Here are some reports:
works in analog mode, although the signal has a lot of static; one user quoted $1.07/minute; another user could call out, but couldnít receive
Another user reports: "I have an old Alltel Tdma PHONE. It is strictly analog and can be switched to Band B which was required last year at Treasure Cay. I went to Alltel before I left the states and had them reactivate it and they checked and still had a roaming agreement. I called Batelco in Nassau and was told the same. I'm here now with an expensive battery replacement and I get a recording from Batelco saying that they are switching me to wireless. Then a recording comes on and says call cannot be completed as dialed check roaming agreements. I went to Batelco here at Treasure and the person said that it will not work.What won't work, I'm not sure. She said the phone had to be TDMA, which this one is....she also said gthat there is no Batelco wireless.
One user reported excellent coverage, $1.40/min, another noted: "Wife and I spent Christmas week around lubbers, Elbow and manowar, My att phone worked well.."
Works in some locations, coverage is spotty, try to get as high as you can; expensive to use (one report: $2.97/minute); another user could not get a signal; one user reported Cingular tri-mode GAIT phone works perfectly. Another user says: "Cingular works well - provded you have an older TDMA model. The newer GSM phones theyhave been selling/pushing inthe US for the past 1+ year do not work. They still sell a TDMA phone through the internet website. Many rural areas of the US (especially the Rocky Mountain areas) do not have GSM service and won't for years. Just tell them you plan to use the phone there when you travel. Charges are $1.99 per minute to call back to the states."
One more report, from March '05: "Just be careful, as Cingular doesn't regularly post pricing updates at its universal website (other Caribbean area countries are listed, but not the Bahamas). We originally signed up for world-wide roaming two years ago, at a decent .99/minute. In fact, we switched over from our prior cellular provider BECAUSE they offered the Bahamas-wide access arrangement with Batelco.Imagine our sticker shock this past January, receiving a bill for per-minute rates TWICE that. I cannot believe that my per-minute charge on a CELL phone now costs more than my per-minute on my SATELLITE phone, which we only usually use in emegencies, post-hurricane. In this day and age of competition, one would expect the prices of yesteryear to have gone DOWN, not DOUBLED. Customer service was not impressed with our subsequent complaint, so ... caller beware! I personally think that we're being taken advantage of, given that our islands start just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, but I am apparently alone in that thinking.I have called Cingular's marketing department, their customer service reps ... all to no avail. (And no one has since returned those calls.)
Does not work
Does not work
One user could call out, couldn'tí receive, costs $0.99/min; another user reporter Verizion works intermittently, very low signal strength, no incoming calls. Depends where you are. Works best in downtown Marsh Harbour. Another user noted "Verizon blocks all cell calls from U.S. to Bahamas, and we've never been able to get any connection whatsoever from Abaco to U.S. on our Verizon phones. Would recommend to anyone who plans to call Bahamas from their cell phone NOT to get Verizon. We're stuck with it for another year, then we're bailing, probably to AT&T or Cingular, whichever gives the best overall reception." And one more: "Verizon's default is to block all calls from the US to the Caribbean basin (including the Bahamas). One call to them from your cell phone and they will allow those calls. I call the Bahamas often from my Verizon cell phone in the states. The phone hardly ever works in Marsh Harbour and is usually a analog signal (meaning 30 minutes talk time, remember those days). So I leave it in my bag." And one More: "Outgoing Version calls works for me most anywhere, Marsh, Guana, TC, ( find a high spot in hope town) but sometimes I have to dial a few times to get through." But, another reported: "I tried Verizon Jan 20 to 29 last week from Marsh H., Hope Town and Tilloo with "no service" whatsoever. As I was walking by the BATELCO tower in MHH I even tried within 50 feet of it as a joke but no dice."
* * * * * * * * * * * * Prior to the hurricanes in Sept '04, you could buy a phone in the Bahamas, activate it, and buy some amount of time for about $200. Between changing over to a new system, and damage from the storms, apparently this is no longer possible (as of December '04).
If you are interested in purchasing a cell phone in Abaco and activating an account with Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company), visit the Batelco web site. It's pricey, especially if you only need it for a week or two, but if your situation requires it, check them out.
The easiest and cheapest way to call the US (or other countries) is using an ordinary pay phone with a Batelco phone card. These are available at a wide variety of shops, stores, marinas and resorts. The come in $5, $10, and $20 demoninations. You simply dial an access number, then enter the code that is printed under a seal on the card. Calls average about 50 cents/min to the US, and the connections are usually good. Do not use the yellow or blue "Call the US" phones that you 'll see around the various commities; we have heard numerous stories of people being charged $40-$45 for a three-minute call (it goes directly agaqinst your credit card).
Well, if my cell phone won't work, how can my family or job reach me in an emergency?
Leave the phone number of the resort, marina, or cottage where you'll be staying with key people who may have need to reach you. Advise them that they will probably have to leave a message, and that you will return the call. You might also want to warn them that there are times when the Bahamian telephone system is a little, well, buggy, and they may have to try a few times.
Can a satellite telephone phone provide me with reliable communication capability?
I am aware of two types of satphone that are used in Abaco: Globalstar and Iridium. They both get very mixed reviews; here are some user comments:
After Jeanne and Francis, I rented a Globalstar to use on one trip since cell phones and land lines were down. It was spotty service, multiple dials to get a number, a lot of dropped calls that had to be redialled, voice breakups and static, etc. Having said that it was a whole lot better than nothin' and I eventually accomplished all I needed to. johnmck, 5/3/05
Iridium has better all around service with far fewer incidents of dropped calls but it is quite a bit more expensive than Globalstar. Globalstar also has a 9600 baud data capability without huge additional equipment cost. If you are willing to pay the additional bucks then go with Iridium. If cost is a factor then despite the odd problem with Globalstar, it is generally fine. Island Notes, 5/3/05
David and I have the Globalstar sat phone and it works, if we are standing very still outside the cottage on Guana Cay with lots of patience. SueBowe, 5/5/05.
I use Globalstar but would recommend it only to those who understand its limitations. There is a basic difference in system design between it and Iridium. Both use a constellation of low-orbiting satellites. However, Iridium uses as many satellites as it needs to connect between endpoints of a call. Globalstar uses only one. What this means using Globalstar is that you can only make a call when a satellite is about 20 degrees above the horizon. In theory, the call will get passed to another satellite when the one you are using sinks to about 20 degrees above the opposite horizon. In the Bahamas, this seldom happens. Instead, your call gets cut off. Average call length is 4 to 5 minutes. I have never had one longer than 10 minutes. So long as you and the people you are calling are OK with this, it works fine. Xaxero has a satellite tracker that will display the current satellite locations and the angle of the nearest one. At one time, the demo version was freeware. I do not know if this is still the case. Pellucid, 5/4/05
Have used a Globalstar sat phone for the past two years, the last couple months in the Abacos. It works........most of the time. The most frustrating thing about it is the dropped calls. One minute you've got a strong signal. The next minute the signal's gone. The longest I was able to hold a signal was 15 min. Price on a new phone was around $450. Monthly service plans, with free minutes, start around $40. Would I recommend buying one? Depends. I would rather use a cell phone if possible; cheaper and more reliable. If no cell phone coverage is available, then Globalstar is the most economical choice. You just have to deal with the dropped calls. Alan Brown, 11/18/04
Having used both, the Globalstar works pretty well in the northern Bahamas (Abacos), but service runs to zilch anywhere south and east of New Providence (Nassau). Iridium, on the other hand, works like a dream. Kimberly, 5/4/05
Globalstar is cheaper (both for the phone & the service) but not as reliable. I use mine in Walkers but get disconnects quite often cuz the satellite is not close enough. I think the coverage is better in Marsh Harbor. Irridum has greater world wide coverage and is more reliable in the Bahamas, but you will pay for it. Our sat phone has come in very handy in the Bahamas. Our plan costs $50 a month for 120 minutes, $0.75 for additional minutes thru GMPCS in Pompano Beach. Gotta check their monthly billing closely for errors. CarolP, 9/28/04
Have an Iridium phone and it has never failed and it sounds if you are sitting next to the person. Spent the hurricanes with Captain Marty who had Globalstar and she had a hard time staying connected and said even without bad weather she had problems with dropped calls after 15 minutes. I was able to call home to Kansas during the height of the storm and the only reason they had trouble hearing me was because of the wind (here not in Kansas). Iridium is more expensive. Set-up was about $1600 which included phone, 200 minutes, waterproof case, and a car antennae, which works very well, you don't need the marine/boat, more expensive one. You don't have a monthly plan as you do with Globalstar, you buy a certain amount of minutes and they are there until you use them. Our first few sets of minutes we bought were $.99 per minute (same as Batelco) but the last ones have cost us $1.25 per minute. Unfortunately once you buy you're phone you're stuck with the service that is provided by the company you bought the phone from and you can't shop around for cheaper minutes... I think. Agur's Wish, 2/28/05
Call Batelco @ 332-2131 and ask for Dwight Cambridge or Danny "BLUE" Seymour...My best choice of the three would be Anthony "Tails" Culmer , however you should be able to get some information from one of them
They are all the same price to use to the USA( .52 cents). One type card you can use in your villa or home or phone booth . Then there is one you can use only at the phone booths. And then there is the pre paid cell phone card ( comes in 10 dollar/20 dollar and 50 dollar amounts) you need to have a Batlco programed cell phone. You can bring your own anolog phone from the Staes or where everyou are coming from . Note that only anolog phones work in Eleuthera (note also that Verzion anolog phones are not progamable in Eleuthera )if you bring a phone from the USA you have to have it programed to use in Eleuthera ( cost is $ 75.00) and they will work in Eleuthera . When you leave you can have it set back to the US system. ( included in the 75.00 charge ) Thats all your options all phone minutes to USA are 52 cents at present time( I believe there is a savings if you call after 9pm but you will have to check with batelco)