The Cook Islands are a small island nation in the South Pacific with political links to New Zealand. Its 15 islands are scattered over a vast area and the largest island is called Rarotonga.
They have only one mobile provider:
- BlueSky Cook Islands
2G/GSM is on 900 MHz on all inhabited islands, 3G/UMTS on 900 MHz and 4G/LTE+ on bands 3 and 28 (1800 and 800 MHz) started only recently on Rarotonga and Aitukaki islands. On all other islands, data is only up to EDGE speed.
Few foreign operators offer roaming so far, even fewer offer data roaming and those who do usually offer it at very expensive price. Because Bluesky is the sole operator and all services use the o3b satellite, data rates across the country are expensive. Free wifi at hotels and tourist locations are non existent and it's not uncommon to pay $50 for 2GB data via hotel wifi (more expensive then the sim card packages below). The only free wifi hotspot in the entire country is at the Rarotonga International airport arrivals area, providing your name, email and country provides you with 30 minutes free wifi daily (speed limited to 5 mbps).
A submarine cable linking the Cook Islands to New Zealand and Hawaii is currently under construction and scheduled to be finished by 2020 (however delays keep occurring). Meanwhile in 2017 SES Networks signed a contract with BlueSky Cook Islands to increase satellite capacity. The increase in capacity has brought 4G+ services to Rarotonga and 4G to Aitutaki. Future plan is to bring 4G/LTE to the country’s outer islands in the near future. The new SES Networks agreement is part of a substantial network upgrade currently being implemented by Bluesky.
BlueSky Cook Islands Edit
BlueSky by Telecom Cook Islands remains the only provider on the islands. They started with mobile services back in 2003, but their new brand BlueSky was launched in 2015. Typical speed on Rarotonga is 30 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. Ping is 200-250 ms to USA. Backhaul is through O3b.
SIM is available from Bluesky shops, no registration needed. Visitors can buy a SIM right in the arrival area of RAR airport after customs, go to the right after clearing customs. They open with every arriving international flight and close as soon as visitors are gone. There is no longer a shop in baggage claim area. It's sold for NZ$ 25 including NZD 20 credit. There's also a Bluesky shop in Avarua in Avarua shopping center near CITC and Cook's corner open 8am-4pm Mon-Fri and 8:30am-1pm on Saturday. A slightly bigger shop (also known as Bluesky's Head office) is behind Cook's corner about 100 meters inland, 8am-4pm Mon-Fri. On Saturday they are present on the Avarua market. Another Bluesky shop is in touristy Muri district, open 10am-6pm Mon-Fri and 12noon-4pm on Sunday. All shops on Rarotonga are marked on Google Maps, search for "Bluesky". As no registration is needed, independent vendors may also carry SIM-cards but your best bet are the official shops.
- Top-ups in form of e-charges are sold from NZD 1 at their outlets (list).
- You can also topup online on their website using PayPal. Simple registration with name and email is required. Name doesn't need to be real but email is verified. This link is available in MyBluesky app but it will just redirect you to the link.
- You can transfer balance from one phone to another by dialing *888# and choosing "Credit transfer". Alternatively you can do it from MyBluesky app.
Often they run promos that increase value of top-up. They send SMS with more details to all of their SIMs. These top up bonus credits are unable to be used for the data packs below however they occasionally release mobile data promos purchasable only using main credit.
SIM card and top-up credit is valid for 6 months past any recharge. Check credit by calling *888# and choosing "View balance". Remaining data and balance can also be checked via SMS by sending the word bal to 888.
Data feature packages Edit
Data default rate is NZ$ 0.20 per MB. You can add these Value Data Packs:
|24HR$3||NZ$ 3||100 MB||24 hours|
|3DAY$5||NZ$ 5||200 MB||3 days|
|7DAY$10||NZ$ 10||450 MB||7 days|
|10DAY$30||NZ$ 30||1.5 GB||10 days|
|14DAY$50||NZ$ 50||3 GB||14 days|
To buy data packs, dial *888#, choose "Buy bundles" and follow menu options to buy bundles. To check data balance, dial *888# and choose "View balance". When you reach about 90% of your package or it's nearly expired, you can buy a new package. In practice on small packages it's often already used up when you get SMS due to delays in the system. Alternatively both operations are available from the app. Make sure to disable mobile data and 4G before inserting SIM card to avoid being charged at default rate. You need to disable 4G as well as otherwise the system treats 4G as data connection and will take $1 even though no data was consumed. Also in 4G it won't be able to make USSD requests.
Tourist SIM Edit
In 2017 they introduced a SIM card aimed at tourists called Visitor SIM. This SIM card is for 30 days only and can't be extended in time. It's sold at NZ$ 49 and comes with 3 GB data, 300 SMS anywhere in the world and 30 international minutes voice to "almost anywhere" in the world.
Users are not able to purchase any data bundles or prepaid promotion packages for this SIM. Once the package is used, users can then, purchase more credit and will be charged standard rates of NZ$ 0.20 per MB. Activation of this tourist sim should be done in store however if this does not occur you will need to SMS "3t" to 888. Remaining balances can be checked by sending a text with the word bal to 888.
WiFi Hotspots: Bluezone Edit
BlueSky operates around 80 public WiFi hotspots mostly in hotels and restaurants on Rarotonga and Aitutaki that are called Bluezone (list of locations). For the arriving passengers there is a good coverage in Rarotonga airport.
To connect select WiFi, launch your internet browser and it should automatically go to the Wifi login page. If it doesn’t just type in http://wifi.bluesky.co.ck to access the login page. For a Prepaid WiFi voucher just enter the username and password and follow the on-screen instructions. Don't forget to logoff after your session.
You can pay by following options:
- buy a voucher from Bluesky shop or one of many e-charge resellers.
- using a prepaid SIM you can dial *888# and choose "Buy Bluezone WiFi" to buy access with your prepaid balance. You can do the same from MyBluesky app. You'll get the code by SMS.
- They have an option to pay with credit cards, but their network doesn't allow access to 3D-secure or Verified by Visa websites without paying. direct link to payment that you can follow on another device. So this option is of limited use and not recommended.
Following passes are available:
- NZ$ 5: 200 MB for 3 days
- NZ$ 10: 500 MB for 7 days
- NZ$ 25: 1.5 GB for 14 days
- NZ$ 50: 3 GB for 30 days
To check WiFi data consumption, open this page. Often they will have promotional packages on weekends and event days. Promo SMS are sent to all phones with their SIMs or announced on their facebook page. Usually promos are available only at retailers and not through other channels.