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Panama

Basics Edit

Providers Edit

Panama has 4 mobile network operators:

  • +móvil (by Cable & Wireless)
  • Claro
  • Digicel
  • Movistar (possibly soon rebranded to Tigo)

All have 2G/GSM up to EDGE and 3G up to HSPA+ is on 850 and 1900 MHz. 4G/LTE was launched in 2015 by +móvil, Movistar and Claro on 700 MHz (on Band 28 - not Bands 12 and 17 like in the US!) and now on 1900 MHz (Band 2) too. Digicel launched its 4.5G network in 2018. It's available in most populated areas so far. 5G is expected to be launched in 2020-21.

Coverage and speeds Edit

At 173% penetration rate and 96% of the population covered, Panama has one of the world's highest cell phone usage rates, yet only 38% of its territory is covered as of 2017. Outside the main population centers, Panama is sparsely populated. Coverage is mostly in, around and between those centers and over the sea between the mainland and the more populated islands. It is fairly continuous, so you shouldn't be without service unless you venture into very remote areas.

There are continual debates over which company provides the best service or coverage. Movistar, +móvil and Claro were considered to be better in general but Digicel has caught up after investing heavily in its network. Movistar and +móvil have the largest footprint overall, while Digicel and +móvil have the fastest LTE speeds according to Ookla's 2018 Speedtest results. Check each carrier's coverage in the areas you plan to visit, since some regions are covered by some carriers better than others. All carriers offer good 4G/LTE service in and around the main population centers, but less so in unpopulated areas.

In this wiki 4G is always referred to as LTE technology. Like in the US in Panama some providers used to call their 3G/HSPA+ network "4G". This is not considered illegal in this part of the world as HSPA+ can theoretically reach slow LTE speeds. However, many countries and this wiki have banned this misleading labeling.

Purchase Edit

Even without MVNOs, the market is highly competitive. On arrival at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, there are self service machines selling overpriced SIM cards. It's better to wait until you are in town. Start up costs are hardly more than B/. 1. Claro mall stands give out SIM cards free of charge. It is not know if Claro stores still charge B/. 2. SIM cards are also available at mall stands and corner stores (known as chinos) without any registration necessary. Movistar's SIM cards are free of charge.

All prices below are subject to 7% sales tax.

Panama’s official currency is the Balboa (B/.) and it's pegged 1:1 to the US dollar but all coins (except the B/.1 coin) are of the same size, shape, composition and denomination as US coins and are used interchangeably. There are no Balboa bills, only US dollar bills.

Recharges Edit

Top-ups by prepaid cards (tarjetas prepago) and electronic vouchers (called recargas electrónicas) are available all over the country; the latter are more common at mall stands.

You can refill your account online on the carriers' websites. They don't charge any fees but do collect Panama's 7% sales tax. Movistar's and +movil's site collect sales tax upon payment, while Claro and Digicel collect it on delivery, meaning the receiver will get 7% less than the refill amount. You can use any Visa or MasterCard branded card. Digicel's site also accepts American Express, Maestro, PayPal, Discover and Diners Club.

Movistar, +movil and Digicel accounts can also be topped up on their respective apps. Methods of payment and sales tax collection are the same as online. Movistar has an app for every country or region it operates in; both the Panama and Central America apps can manage Panamanian accounts. Digicel's app works for all of their networks. Claro doesn't have an app for Panama at the moment.

You can also transfer balance between two accounts of the same carrier. It's known as Pasa Saldo and can be done through text, by USSD code or the apps. Minimum transfer amount is $1.

Note that all providers give x5 bonuses (quintuplica) on any top-up of $3 and more. But bonus balance is available for talk and text only, not data pass purchases nor balance transfers so make sure to do those first before making phone calls. 

You can check your balance on carriers' apps, online, by USSD code, text message or phone call. 

+móvil (= más móvil, by Cable & Wireless Panama) Edit

+movil

Cable & Wireless Panama, a subsidary of Cable & Wireless, now owned by Liberty Media, is a provider of mobile, fixed line, broadband and pay TV services in the country. +movil (spoken: más móvil) is their cellular branch and product.

+movil offers 4G/LTE on their prepaid plans on 700 MHz and 2100 MHz (B2 and B28): 4G coverage map.

The network offers VoWiFi and VoLTE on compatible handsets (like iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and Note lines and select Huawei Phones); earning the distinction of being the first and (currently) only network in Panama to offer such.

Availability Edit

Their starter pack is called "kit +móvil" and sold in their stores and lot of other outlets for a minimal price. In order to take advantage e of features like VoLTE and VoWiFi, ensure that you obtain a U-SIM at purchase.

Top-up cards of B/. 2-15 are available or top-up online. They give high top-up bonuses (up to 5 times of face value, but this can't be used for data). Check prepaid balance by *165#.

Combo packages Edit

They offer three combo base plans:

  • 400 MB, 100 on-net mins, free Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and WhatsApp for 3 days: B/.3
  • 1 GB, unlimited on-net mins, free Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp and YouTube for 7 days: B/.10
  • Plan Siempre: 1.5 GB, 300 on-net mins, free WeChat and WhatsApp for 30 days: B/. 10. It has a reward scheme for every add-on that you add. For B/. 4 you can add 1 GB and they will give another GB for free every second addition. After the 8th addition you will get unlimited data.

Select base plan by dialing *456#.

Data feature packs Edit

Their standard tariff is called Tarifa ùnica. It has data at B/. 0.06 per MB. So better buy data packages:

Data Time Price
650 MB 3 days B/. 2.99
1 GB 15 days B/. 8.99
2 GB 30 days B/. 14.99

Activation is online, by app or by dialing *456#

More info Edit

ClaroEdit

Claro

Claro by América Móvil is another player in the country and has started 4G/LTE on prepaid operating on 700 MHz and 2100 MHz (B 2 and 28). In the beginning, it's was limited to certain parts of the capital city; Chiriqui and Colon only, but now it has been expanded to major regions: 4G coverage map.

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is available in their stores, outlets and almost in any grocery store: Store locator. Claro mall stands are giving out SIM cards for free. It's not known if their stores still charge for them.

Recharges are available for B/. 1-70 giving 2-120 days of credit.

They give x5 bonuses on the Tarifa Quintuplica. But these can't be used for data. So better stay on the default Tarifa Base. Check prepaid balance by *103#.

Combo packages Edit

These combo packs are offered and have 4G/LTE included where available:

Time Data Voice SMS Price
1 day 150 MB 20 mins B/. 1
2 days 250 MB 20 mins 5 B/. 2
3 days "unlimited" 15 mins 10 B/. 3
7 days "unlimited" 25 mins 25 B/. 5
15 days 3 GB 50 mins 50 B/. 10
30 days 4 GB 150 mins 75 B/. 15

To activate dial *123#. "Unlimited" is not specified.

Data feature packs Edit

Default rate is B/. 0.025 per MB. These data plans with a WhatsApp bonus are offered:

Time Data WhatsApp Price
1 day 200 MB 350 MB B/. 0.99
3 days "unlimited" "unlimited" B/. 3
7 days "unlimited" "unlimited" B/. 5
14 days "unlimited" "unlimited" B/. 8.99
30 days 4 GB 1 GB B/. 14.99

Once again, "unlimited" is not specified by a FUP.

More infoEdit

DigicelEdit

Digicel

Jamaica-based Digicel is another provider in Panama. Though they used to advertise with "4G", it meant only 3G/HSPA+ in reality: Digicel coverage map.

Finally in 2018 Digicel received spectrum on Band 28 (700 MHz) to be used for 4G/LTE and started their 4.5G network which is marketed as "LTE Pro".

Digicel reportedly has the best coverage on the Guna Yala (San Blas) Islands. They won Ookla's 2018 speed test award for fastest mobile network in Panama.  

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is available in stores and outlets: Store locator-

Recharges are valid for 365 days sold in their stores and outlets or online on the international Digicel top-up site where even rare payment methods like American Express or PayPal are accepted.

Check prepaid balance by dialing *120*1#.

Data feature packsEdit

Their new packages now have real 4G/LTE where it's available and are called "Planes Prepago ILIMITADOS LTE PRO". They include "unlimited" data governed by an unspecified Fair Use Policy.

Price Validity Data WiFi

Hotspot

on-net

Calls

off-net

Calls

SMS
B/. 5 7 days "unlimited" 1 GB "unlimited" 25 mins "unlimited"
B/. 10 14 days 2.5 GB 50 mins
B/. 20 28 days 5 GB 125 mins
B/. 35 5 GB "unlimited"

Their Política de Uso Justo (FUP) limites using the SIM card in a dongle, MiFi or for tethering. It's restricted to smartphones and tablets. Be sure to have LTE band 28 (700 MHz) for coverage.

Roaming Edit

Digicel's roaming options are attractive. For B/. 30 you get a roaming plan with 1 GB data valid in 78 countries. Furthermore, they are the only provider that offers roaming in Cuba, which is sold normally very expensive:

  • B/. 15 for 7 days including 100 MB and 10 mins
  • B/. 25 for 14 days including 200 MB and 15 mins
  • B/. 45 for 14 days including 400 MB and 25 mins

All roaming options can be activated by *111#.

More infoEdit

Movistar (soon: Tigo)Edit

Movistar

Movistar by Spanish Telefónica is the 4th provider of the quartet with a fairly good coverage: 2G, 3G and 4G coverage map.

Movistar Panamá offers 4G/LTE on their prepaid offers. You first need a 4G/LTE SIM (available free of charge from any of their outlets), before you can use their LTE, which is available on the 700 MHz (band 28) and 1900 MHz (B2) frequencies.

In 2019 Telefónica sold its Central American networks to Millicom. So a possible rebrand to Tigo can be expected once the acquisition is closed.

Availability Edit

SIM card is available in their stores Store locator.

Refill cards are available in denominations of B/. 2, 3, 5, 10 or 15. For every refill B/. 3 and up you get 30 days of WhatsApp, on-net minutes and an x5 bonus valid for voice and text but not data pass purchases.

Check prepaid balance by dialing *312 (voice), *123# (on-screen) or on the app.

Combo packagesEdit

This combo package called Preplan Recurrente can be added:

  • "unlimited" data, 25 mins/SMS to every domestic operator, international calls to 13 countries for 7 days: B/. 5

This plan auto-renews every 7 days. "unlimited" is not specified, no tethering on this plan.

Data feature packages Edit

These data packages are offered:

Data Bonus Voice SMS Time Price
250 MB 5 mins 5 2 days B/. 2
525 MB WhatsApp 10 mins 10 4 days B/. 3
1.1 GB WhatsApp 20 mins 20 7 days B/. 5
1.5 GB WhatsApp 40 mins 40 15 days B/. 10

To activate type *888#, choose option 2 and pick a package. You can buy any package anytime. Packages include small allowances of local calls and SMS too. Packages of 4 days and longer include free WhatsApp use during the running time of the package.

Roaming Edit

Movistar offers roaming options called "Movistar sin fronteras" which can be activated through here:

  • in the Movistar networks in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica you can roam at the domestic rate without surcharges for up to 30 days. The pass is not technically limited as you can renew it every 30 days indefinitely.
  • in Canada, USA (on AT&T and T-Mobile), Colombia, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and South America you can add a roaming pass for B/.5 per day.
  • in some European countries, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Singapore and Thailand you can add a roaming pass for B/.10 per day.

It's important to note that Movistar sin fronteras passes are for using domestic data while abroad so you need to make sure to purchase a data pass beforehand.

More infoEdit

  • APN: internet.movistar.pa
  • Username and Password: movistarpa
  • Tethering is supported
  • Website in Spanish: http://www.movistar.com.pa
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