When arriving in Mexico many people are tempted to continue using their GSM digital phones. Even though the cellular rates in Mexico are higher than in many countries, it makes good economical sense to contract a local service, because roaming rates on a visiting phone can mount up surprisingly quickly. In choosing a cellular phone service in Mexico, the best way to find the service that fits your needs is to analyze the type of use your phone will see, and from there establish what the necessities are.
When arriving in Mexico many people are tempted to continue using their GSM digital phones. Even though the cellular rates in Mexico are higher than in many countries, it makes good economical sense to contract a local service, because roaming rates on a visiting phone can mount up surprisingly quickly. In choosing a cellular phone service in Mexico, the best way to find the service that fits your needs is to analyze the type of use your phone will see, and from there establish what the necessities are. For some, the ability to use a phone anywhere in the country is a must, whilst others want a phone that can be used anywhere in the world. A business might find that a free radio facility between phones is indispensable. Some private users may choose the path of ultimate economy of rates, at the cost of network dependability. The process of choosing consists in evaluating the importance of: network coverage, calling rates, service charges, dependability and equipment costs. Once you have prioritized the requirements, then you will be on your way to finding the best cellular service for your needs.
The following types of network exist in Mexico:
PCS Digital includes the following:
GSM Digital Global System phones
Cellular is the name used for analog.
SMS is used for text and picture messages.
Radio, otherwise known as "walkie-talkie".
Note: It appears that GSM, or some combination of GSM and CDMA, is likely to become the global wireless standard.
Types of Cellular Phone Service
PCS (digital) and Cellular (analog) are separate systems on separate frequencies, however, dual-mode phones interchange automatically between the two, depending on the strength of the signal. Analog is low security, so care should be taken that no confidential information is sent in analog mode. Analog phones have been around the longest and have the widest coverage. Analog phones operate in smaller cities and in rural areas where digital service is not yet available.
Roaming requires either GSM or TDMA (a form of PCS digital) technology to function. Sometimes you need to make request through your cellular provider to Roam beforehand, in other cases it is automatic, depending on the cellular provider. Currently, work is being done to allow Roaming of a CDMA phone in GSM territory, but the technology has not yet come to market.
Long-distance cellular phone dialing codes in Mexico changed on November 4, 2006
National and international long-distance dialing to Mexican cellular telephones (except for Nextel phones, which are called as if they were local land lines) changed on November 4, 2006.
For national long-distance calls to cellular telephones from non-Nextel providers you now dial “045” before the area code and number.
For international long-distance calls to Mexican cellular phones from non-Nextel providers you dial +52-1-“area code”-“local number”. The change is the addition of the “1” between the country code (“52”) and the area code. So, if you were dialing from the US/Canada to a Mexico City cellular phone you would dial “011-52-1-55-XXXX-XXXX”, where the eight-digit local number is the local number you are calling.
Local cellular telephone dialing did NOT change. For a local call to all cellular telephones you dial “044”, the area code (“55” for Mexico City, for example), and the local number (8 digits in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey). For example, dialing a Mexico City cellphone, is “044-55-XXXX-XXXX”, dialing a Monterrey cellphone you push “044-81-XXXX-XXXX”, dialing a Cuernavaca cellular telephone in Cuernavaca you push “044-777-XXXX-XXXX”.
1. None of this applies to Nextel telephones, which are assigned local numbers as if they were land lines.
2. Mexico’s cellular phone system is based on a DIFFERENT principle from the US and Canada. It is called “calling-party pays”, which means that YOU will be charged both the long-distance charge AND the air time (usually around US$0.10-$0.25 cents per minute IN ADDITION to the long distance charge). The person you are calling will talk for FREE.
3. All telephones in Mexico are made up of 10 digits, but the three largest cities, Mexico City (“55”), Guadalajara (“33”) and Monterrey (“81”) divide the ten digits into two-digit area codes and eight-digit local numbers. All other towns have three-digit area codes and seven-digit local numbers, like in the US and Canada.
4. The “Calling-Party Pays” system can sometimes mess with VOIP calls and systems that function apart from the traditional telephone system. DO NOT BE SURPRISED if you can’t reach a Mexican cellphone by VOIP and, by extension, some calling card plans.
Cellular telephone providers in Mexico
Company Full National Coverage? Pre-paid available? Technology
Telcel (Telmex/América Móvil) Yes Yes GSM and PCS
Telefónica Movistar Yes Yes GSM
Unefón No Yes (only) CDMA
Iusacell No Yes 3G GSM
Nextel No No iDen (“push-to-talk”)
Roaming: All cellular phone companies that operate in Mexico have national roaming in the cities where they have coverage (only two are fully “national”, Telcel and Movistar). All cellular phone companies have some sort of international roaming arrangement, but you should make sure you know their coverage and their rates before relying on one provider to use outside the country.
International Dialing – Context
The US invented the telephone. When international dialing codes were assigned, the US was given the ONLY single-digit country code, “1”. Canada quickly and very intelligently jumped on the same bandwagon, Mexico did not. So, if you are calling the US or Canada from Mexico, you dial the international access number (in this case “00”), then the country code (in the US case “1”), the area code and the local number. All other country codes, including Mexico, are two (or even three) digits long. Mexico is “52”, Great Britain is “44”, etc.
Types of Cellular Phone Plan
There now exist a range of options for obtaining a cellular phone service in Mexico:
Pre-paid cards are a common option in Mexico, and include the benefit of not having to commit to a contract. You can buy top-up cards in many places which can be used to increase your call credit anytime (the credit must be used within 60 days), and the network system gives you the option of English to manage your account (check balances, add call credit, etc). Top-up cards come in denominations of MX$: 100, 200, 300 and 500, and there is often a promotion which will credit the amount on the card plus a percentage, effectively offering discount on your call charges. Check locally for details as offers are changing constantly.
Rent Plans are available in a variety of forms, some including airtime, while some charge separately. There also exist a variety of options orientated towards businesses.