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Basics Edit

On the Caribbean island of Jamaica there are 2 mobile network operators:

  • Digicel Jamaica
  • Flow (by Cable & Wireless)
  • Caricel (by Symbiote - license revoked)

Mobile service in the Caribbean had been under the control of Cable & Wireless, the longtime provider of telecommunications services in the region. Cable & Wireless had little competition or incentive to change and service was considered expensive and poor in quality.

In 2001 Jamaica decided to open its phone market up for competition. Digicel, owned by Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien, first established itself in 2001 in Jamaica. It grew to 100,000 customers there in approximately 100 days. Now Jamaica is home to over 3 million mobile users, with Digicel claiming around 2.2 million and Flow having around one million.

In 2016 Jamaica's cabinet approved the award of a third license to Symbiote Investments that has paid US$ 20.8 million to roll out a 4G LTE service under the Caricel brand. They started in 2017 but face a regulatory investigation into the circumstances of their licensing and in 2019 their license seems to be revoked.

All prices are given in Jamaican dollar (J$ or JMD), that is a free floating currency not linked to the US dollar. All taxes are not included. All transactions are exclusive of the 25% Special General Consumption Tax (GCT) on all Telecoms activities.

Digicel Jamaica Edit

Digicel Jamaica

Jamaica was the first market where Digicel started in 2001 in the Caribbean. It's considered as their home base and they soon became market leader on the island with a major share of the customers.

They run a dual CDMA and GSM network. CDMA is on BC1 and only for inbound roaming. Their GSM 2G is on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G is on 850 MHz up to DC-HSPA+. They started 4G/LTE on 700 MHz or Band 17 on June 9, 2016 in Kingston, St Andrew and around the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, with hopes of it reaching other parts of the island soon. Recently, they've expanded coverage to Montego Bay, Falmouth and a few other places on the North Coast and South Coast. On their 2G/3G networks they claim to cover 99% of Jamaicans, on 4G/LTE 65% are covered at the end of 2018: coverage-map.

Digicel has deployed LTE on Band 4 with a bandwidth of 10 MHz aggregated with Band 17. Digicel was the first carrier to offer HD Voice in Jamaica, available on its 3G network for AMR-WB or VoLTE capable devices like iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices.

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is around JMD 500-700 in their stores (locator) and other locations. Be prepared to show a passport for purchase.

Top-ups can be made online by credit card or PayPal, where you can buy plans directly too. Alternatively, you can use vouchers sold all over the islands without surcharges.

Dial *120# to check your account balance & dial *120*9# for your data balance.

Digicel, is active on social media and offers assistance through that medium to its customers in addition to the traditional means, 

Data feature packages Edit

Default data is JMD 20 per MB. They offer these plans including their new 4G/LTE:

Data On-net Voice Time Price Extras
150 MB 25 mins 2 days JMD 250 unlimited apps*
150 MB 100 mins 2 days JMD 140
250 MB 2 days JMD 140
400 MB 75 mins 7 days JMD 750 unlimited apps*
400 MB 250 mins 7 days JMD 330
600 MB 7 days JMD 330
800 MB 500 mins 14 days JMD 600
1.2 GB 14 days JMD 600
225 MB 5 mins 28 days JMD 200 roll-over
550 MB 15 mins 28 days JMD 400 roll-over
1.125 GB 30 mins 28 days JMD 800 roll-over, WhatsApp
1.8 GB 300 mins 28 days JMD 2,650 unlimited apps*
1.8 GB 1000 mins 28 days JMD 1,150
4 GB 150 mins 28 days JMD 2,500 roll-over, WhatsApp
5.5 GB unlimited 28 days JMD 4,000 roll-over, WhatsApp

(*) included apps are Facebook, WhatsApp (without VoIP), Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter

Activate by *147#, online or by app, check balance by *120*9#. On marked plans roll over data from your previous plan, when a new plan is activated prior to expiry of the current plan or plan is renewed. All plans auto-renew. These add-ons are offered for their plans for more data:

24 hrs unlimited social media: JMD 150 (for Quick Pick Plans only)

  • 100 MB social media: JMD 50
  • 50 MB data: JMD 50
  • 1 GB data: JMD 750 (for Quick Pick Plans only)

Add-on data packs expire with existing data plan. You must have an active data plan in order to purchase data pack add on.

International roaming Edit

Roaming bundles allow Digicel customers travelling to the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland and some others to roam at discounted rates. You will need to connect to AT&T or T-Mobile in the US, Rogers in Canada or all Caribbean Digicel networks. To activate a roaming bundle dial *153#.

  • for 1 day: JMD 350 including 50 MB data
  • for 7 days: JMD 1,500 including 250 MB data
  • for 30 days: JMD 5,000 including 1 GB data

To check data balance, dial *120*154# Note that domestic data bundles don't apply while on the Roam Like You're Home plan. You will be charged the domestic default rate of JMD 45 per MB while roaming beyond the included quota.

More info Edit

  • APN: web.digiceljamaica.com

FLOW Jamaica Edit

Flow

FLOW, previously called LIME is the incumbent provider in Jamaica. It's operated by Cable & Wireless Communications which is owned by Liberty Global.

FLOW's 2G network is only on 850 MHz. FLOW's 3G network resides on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. Both their 2G & 3G networks are available islandwide. FLOW recently disabled DC-HSDPA and GSM on 1900 MHz, opting to use the spectrum for LTE and a small allocation for 3G, instead. The company is also intending to shutter its legacy technology (presumably 2G) "soon" but timelines were not provided.

FLOW started its 4G/LTE rollout in the Kingston Metropolitan Area in 2016 and expanded it to Montego Bay (and its environs) and the resort town of Ocho Rios as well as the towns of Spanish Town, Portmore in St. Catherine and Mandeville in Manchester in 2017 (see coverage map). FLOW's primary LTE Band, Band 4 (1700 MHz), has less in-building penetration. As a result, it doesn't propagate as far as lower frequencies like 700 MHz on Digicel. Band 4 offers more speed and network capacity than its competition because it sits on a 20 MHz bandwidth. FLOW also began deploying LTE Band 2 (1900 MHz) in places like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Kingston and a good portion of rural areas with aggregation. They recently also began adding Band 12 (700 MHz) as 3rd LTE band that will become the layer on which the carrier deploys VoLTE. The network has already begun deployment of its full spectrum in some rural areas like Portland, St. Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas and other like areas.

FLOW was recently awarded a Speedtest Award from Ookla for Q2-Q3 2018, with average download speeds of 22.66 Mbit/s and average upload speeds of 9.62 Mbit/s. They have since now attained 87% of population coverage with intent to cover all Jamaicans by 2020.

FLOW recently went live with HD Audio over its 3G Network with a soft launch on April 3, 2019; nearly 3 years after the competition. The requirements are the same as that of its competitor but FLOW nor its competitor offers cross-net HD Voice. FLOW intends to launch VoLTE in the future subsequent to having gone live with AMR-WB over 3G.

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is sold in their stores (locator) for JMD 500. Be prepared to show your passport at the point of purchase. For LTE, you need an LTE-enabled SIM card which is available at any FLOW Store/Kiosk. Simply ask the sales associate for one which should be labeled "Prepaid Mobile LTE". Also, ensure that your phone is compatible with LTE Band 4 (1700 MHz), Band 2 (1900 MHz), Band 12 (700 MHz).

Top-ups can be made online or in top-up kiosks, supermarkets and gas stations all over the island.

Any top-up stays valid for 90 days irrespective of the amount. Check your airtime balance by dialing *120# and check your data balance by dialing *129*6*1# or *146*0#.

FLOW, like Digicel, is active on social media and offers assistance through that medium to its customers in addition to the traditional means. Support is also offered through their Local Toll Free number 1-888-CALL-CWJ (1-888-225-5295) or internationally, 1-800-804-2994.

Data feature packages Edit

Liberty Latin America recently began the realignment of the entire Jamaican Business Unit (FLOW Jamaica) with that of other markets like Panama. Along with FLOW adopting like branding elements, it has now introduced 2 new standard unlimited plans. These plans come with unlimited local anywhere talk, unlimited local anywhere text and unlimited social media (i.e. Snapchat, WhatsApp Voice & Text, Instagram, Facebook and, Twitter). These plans also have no overage; you will browse at 2G speed once your benefit is fully decremented or use PAYG rates for call and text if you run into Fair Usage.

FLOW also has other two types of data plans, one called "FLOW Lyf" and another called "GigUP". FLOW Lyf comes with 'Bonus' data buckets for Social Media (inclusive of Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook & Twitter) and access to FLOW Sports, a network similar to ESPN, available to all mobile & TV subscribers (provided you sign up for a FLOW ID; essential for using the MyFLOW App for Android or iOS and the FLOW Sports app as well).

FLOW's GigUp plans are combo plans that include bundled on-net talk and text allotments as well as data, similar to their S, M, L & XL plans in other FLOW territories.

Default rate outside packages is JMD 50 per MB. These data packs avail users of their 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE network:

New FLOW "Unlimited" Plans

Duration Talk Text Social Media Any-Use Data Price
5 days Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* 250 MB JMD 350
28 days Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* 2 GB JMD 1500

Add-ons to "Unlimited" Plan

Allotment Price
1 GB JMD 400
3 GB JMD 1000

FLOW Lyf

Data Time Price Social Media Activation
275 MB 2 days JMD 170 25 MB *146*2*1#
400 MB 3 days JMD 280 50 MB *146*3*2#
600 MB 7 days JMD 430 50 MB *146*7*1#
850 MB 30 days JMD 750 100 MB *146*30*2#
1.5 GB 30 days JMD 1,050 100 MB *146*30*3#
3 GB 30 days JMD 1,850 100 MB *146*30*4#

GigUP Combo Plans

Cost Time On-net

Text

On-net

Voice

Data Activation
JMD 280 2 Days 250 SMS 250 mins 1 GB *147*2#
JMD 999 7 Days 500 SMS 500 mins 2 GB *147*7#
JMD 2,150 14 Days 1000 SMS 1000 mins 4.5 GB *147*14#

Note that Unlimited plans only rollover any-use data up to three times. Additionally, all Add-Ons to Unlimited plans last for the same duration as the original plan. All plans are subject to FLOW's Fair Usage Policy.

To stop auto-renewal dial *787#. To check data balance, dial *146*0# or *129*6*1#. Plans can be activated through via USSD codes or through the MyFLOW app.

International roaming Edit

Recently, FLOW Jamaica did away with their MyRoam packages and now only offer roaming data plans to 47 countries including the entire FLOW Caribbean, US, UK, Canada, Spain, Australia, Turkey, Ireland, New Zealand, Ghana and much more with access to up to 4G/LTE speed. They come in the following variations:

  • A Combo Plan with 30 Anywhere Texts, 30 Minutes of Voice (in the visited country and to Jamaica) and 100 MB of data for 7 days: JMD 1,299, activation: use the MyFLOW app or dial *129#
  • 250 MB for 7 days: JMD 999, activation: use the MyFLOW app or dial *129#
  • 500 MB for 7 days: JMD 1,749, activation: use the MyFLOW app or dial *129#

These plans offer rollover data, talk and text. They are cross border; they can work while traveling between multiple countries whilst having bought a plan only once. They are also subject to FLOW's Fair Usage Policies. FLOW steers customers to specific roaming partners for subscribers on these plans. FLOW will send a text once you have exhausted 75%, 99% and 100% of your plan allotment(s). Pay-as-you-Go rates while roaming are the same or similar to that of local rates. This offering is harmonized across all FLOW markets. To see the roaming countries or for more information, see here.

More info Edit

  • APN: ppinternet

Caricel (on LTE-only) Edit

Caricel

Caricel, a local brand of Symbiote Investments won a license as 3rd operator in 2016 under disputed circumstances. In 2017 they started their 4G/LTE-only network on 700 MHz (band 13) in Portmore, Kingston and St. Andrew. Without any fallback to 2G or 3G they don't cater for the mobile market, but for home internet through Mifis and modems. That's why they couldn't be recommended for travellers.

At the end of 2017 Symbiote agreed to sell its business to South Africa-based Involution for an undisclosed price. The sale was made public in February 2018, only for the regulatory authorities to protest that Symbiote had not sought government approval for the transaction. In March 2018 the relevant minister declared that Caricel will have its licence revoked for breaking conditions and regulations. In April 2018, the Government of Jamaica's Ministry of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mining (MSTEM) finally pulled Caricel's licenses.

The Jamaican Supreme Court cleared the way for the government to revoke the telecoms licence granted to Symbiote in December 2018, only for the Court of Appeal to intervene a matter of days later. In 2019 stricken Jamaican 4G start-up Symbiote has informed local media outlets that it has now signed up more than 15,000 customers, despite the significant legal challenges being faced by the company.

In April 2019 Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has announced that the Court of Appeal has backed its 2018 decision to strip Symbiote Investment (trading as Caricel) of its telecoms licences. The decision, which was handed down on 29 March, backed the watchdog’s assertion that Caricel is not authorised to own or operate a facility, nor is it permitted to provide telecoms or other specified services, as defined in the Telecommunications Act, to the public. Their license will be revoked and the operator shut down.

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