Phones and Internet in Ecuador
Updated 2018-05-16 15:22

Especially for an expat, the means of communication matter immensely. Whether to keep in touch with the new friends you make in Ecuador or to video chat with family and friends back home, one needs the lifeline that good telecommunications can provide.

Internet: on the up but uneven

Ecuador is experiencing an exponential explosion of internet access points, mobile lines, and carriers as we speak. However, access and speed can be very uneven throughout Ecuador. If internet matters significantly to you, definitely check the specifics of the area where you may want to live. The state-owned CNT is by far the lead provider of fixed telephone landlines, but cell service is booming everywhere. Fibre optic internet service is offered by a number of the internet providers but mostly in the larger urban areas. The many remote mountainous areas in the country render copper wiring prohibitive, and few inhabitants have a landline. Wireless providers are the best answer, and most people use wireless for all communications, even workers in businesses and banks.

Internet-operational areas

If you are settling in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta, or Salinas, then you can expect good internet services. The preceding list of towns reflects the quality and price of internet access in decreasing order. In Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, internet performance is excellent at a reasonable price because of the ongoing competition between numerous providers. TVCable, Etapa, Puntonet, and CNT are the biggest internet providers and all five have begun offering fibre-optic service in major areas. Pricing has come down due to competition but service can still vary, regardless of the plan and/or bandwidth purchased. Manta and Loja offer somewhat decent internet at higher prices because there is far less competition among local providers; they are smaller towns. Cuenca, Salinas, and a few other cities recently began offering fibre optic service with NetLife in order to compete with the bigger carrier options, touting better access, pricing, and service. The verdict is out, however, on Netlife service, as the word is that they are purchasing CNT and Etapa lines for resale, so, if CNT and Etapa are slow, so is Netlife.

Cell phones

Unsurprisingly, given the difficult state of affairs with landlines, and in keeping with the global trend, mobile services have surged in Ecuador. Just about everyone owns a cell phone, and you can buy a cheap phone or an expensive smartphone in any city or village in Ecuador. A good financial decision is to bring an unlocked cell phone from outside of the country and it will work perfectly in Ecuador with a new sim card/chip. Claro and Movistar are the big names that are always competing with each other, and frequently offer up various promotions of all types. As everywhere else in the world, you pay less when phoning people who are on the same carrier network, so it's worth checking with your acquaintances to see to which provider they are using. Reviewing the regions where operators' performances were most problematic recently may also help you make a choice of carrier.

Many residents actually resort to owning two sim cards, or two separate cellphones, one for each provider, as a way of saving money on minutes ('saldo' in Ecuadorian Spanish) and for use with friends and family on competing carriers. People often use non-contract pay-as-you-go plans, adding minutes ('saldo', or 'recarga') when needed, at the local tienda, grocery store, carrier office, or bank. Service plans abound and can often be much cheaper than pay as you go if you like to use WhatsApp (very popular for both texting and calling in Ecuador) and Facebook. Service plans can only be set up and bought at an authorized carrier store, usually found in malls and in downtown shopping areas. New residents to Ecuador will be happy to discover that costs for prepaid monthly cell phone and data plans can be very cheap compared to European and North American plan costs.

Quality technology

In view of the many valleys and mountains one finds in Ecuador, coverage is actually good, with some exceptions in remote areas. The phones themselves, however, pose more of a problem. Imported technological items are heavily taxed in Ecuador. As a result, superior quality smartphones are expensive, coveted, and often stolen. In turn, some people settle on using lesser quality phones, with inferior reception and transmission capacities. Others buy an unlocked smartphone in their home country, bring it into Ecuador, and buy a chip from a local Ecuador cell service carrier. Currently, Ecuador's regulations allow you one new and one used cell phone per person per entry in the country.

Useful links:

TV Cable
How to stay connected while travelling in Ecuador
Forecasts of Telecoms, IP Networks, Digital Media in Ecuador

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.