For the past several months, I’ve noticed an article here and there on the new mobile internet services being offered in Uruguay. Movistar and CTI both offer this service.
Mobile internet is a 3rd way of getting internet service in Uruguay. The first provider in Uruguay was Antel with dialup. Then it introduced ADSL. Dedicado opened up shop with point to point microwave internet. Antel’s ADSL service works through a telephone line. Dedicado uses point-to-point microwave. You get a small antenna which is pointed at their antennas. Mobile internet is also wireless, but you dont need an antenna pointed at theirs. You just need a small USB device. It can be a plug in, like a jump drive or it can be a small remote USB modem. Both are shown below.
The differences between CTI and Movistar as of today are several. Let’s start with the way they promote it. Movistar advertises it on their website. CTI doesn’t. Pricing is considerably different. CTI launched the service at almost USD50 per month. It’s now down to USD25. Movistar is about the same, but not for the same service. CTI offers unlimited use for that USD25 per month. Movistar limits you to 10gb for USD25.
Coverage is also different. Whereas CTI supposedly claims coverage across the country, Movistar is a little more conservative, showing coverage in most of Montevideo, Colonia and Maldonado (Punta del Este). If you go to CTI and look at their written promotion, it says the service is available in Montevideo, Zona America (I assume that’s Zonamerica-Canelones), Atlantida, Piriapolis, Jose Ignacio, Punta Del Este, Maldonado, Shangrilah and Solymar. It says that more site are coming.
The obvious advantage of mobile internet over fixed internet (as in cable, telephone line, microwave) is that you can take it with you, assuming that there is service where you’re going. Not everyone needs this but for those that do, this is the answer to your mobile needs. Not only can you take CTI with you here in Uruguay to Punta or up to Colonia, you can take it with you to Argentina, (eg. Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba, etc.) and to Brazil (Sao Paolo, Rio, Florianopolis, etc.) and Paraguay, (Ascunsion, etc.). No roaming charges. If Movistar lets you do this too, you can add Chile to the list.
We went out tonight and purchased service from CTI. Movistar was out because our summer house is atop San Antonio in Piria. That’s the main reason we bought the service–so we could have internet in Piriapolis.
I was somewhat prepared for CTI because of Wilbur’s (jajaja) post on totaluruguay.com, but like they say, you’re never fully prepared for anything in Uruguay. We went to CTI’s Punta Carretas branch around 7:45pm. There was no line. We were served within a few minutes. Before we could ask any questions, the girl went through a list of things we should know. The service was up to 2mb but there was no guarantee what we’d get. If you use it inside, the speed is usually slower than outside. You had to take a contract for 2 years. Your first month is free. You had to pay for the modem–$1799 (pesos). Then we got to ask our first question, ‘Is there service in Piriapolis’. That caused a delay as our salesgirl asked her boss who went inside and asked someone else. After 5-6 minutes we were told that ‘it says it works in Piriapolis’ That didn’t warm my heart but considering there was no alternative, I accepted that at face value.
We then asked what the return policy was if it didn’t work in Piriapolis. We were told we had 5 days to return the product for full refund. There was one catch though. If we connected to the internet, that meant that we accepted that it worked and there would be no return possible. I explained that if we connected to the internet for a few seconds, then it went away and then it came back and this went on, that wouldn’t constitute a reasonable service. That was answered with a blank stare. So I said, well what if the service is so poor, that we get a very poor connection speed. The supervisor said it wont connect under 256kbps. Impasse.
After a minute of indecision, we decided I knew enough to stay out of trouble so we said OK, we’ll take it. That’s when she asked for a cedula and a phone, water, electricity bill. Uh oh. It’s been so long since I dealt with a new vendor, I forgot that you need to show that you actually have a contract with any company in Uruguay. You could show them your Black American Express card and they’d still refuse to service you unless you show them an Antel, OSE, UTE or Montevideo Gas bill. I went home to get one while my wife looked around.
When I got back, there was a bit of a line, so we had to wait 10 minutes to see the girl who originally served us. She smiled and took the Antel bill. Then she printed out a 5 or 6 page document which my wife dutifully signed. While she was doing that, I got a chance to read the posters in the store. I guess I was bored because I read the fine print on the bottom of the mobile internet poster. And that’s where I saw the published coverage. There was Piriapolis… I was happy.
After we signed all the forms, they asked us how we intended to pay. As soon as my wife said ‘by credit card’ the girl said ‘it cant be an international card’. This goes back to Wilbur’s post when he got frustrated, tore up his contract and walked out. We were OK because we use our local credit card for small stuff in Uruguay. When we told the girl we had a ‘national’ credit card, she was genuinely relieved. I guess after hearing my wife and myself talking in English, she feared the worse.
She gave us all the forms and we went upstairs to the cashier who stamped everything. We went back downstairs and picked up the modem.
When we came home, I opened up the box, took out the modem and looked at the manual. One of the very few I’ve seen in Uruguay that come from China that aren’t in English. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem but there was a description of how to read the lights and another question in my mind about the cable. I always resort to English when a misunderstanding could cause damage. Checked on the internet for the manual in English. The model we had, the E226 wasn’t there but the E220 was. I figured that was good enough. It was.
The question I had with the cable was that it had 3 ends. One for the device and what looked like 2 USB connections for the computer. At first thought I figured it was to share another device if you only have one USB port on your computer. But, believe it or not, it isn’t. This device actually needs two USB ports on your computer. One for data and one for power. Maybe I’ve been away from the hardware side of the business too long but in all my years in IT, I never saw a device that needed 2 connections to work.
A device that requires 2 ports presents a dilemna for my wife. She uses a Dell miniature laptop which has only one port. I will have to give her my full size dell notebook to use in Piria. It has 2 ports. Or maybe I’ll purchase an external USB hub with a power supply. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.
As of now, the chip is in the modem and it’s ready to go to Piria tomorrow evening. I will have to bring my box of electronics with me in case I need to modify or fix something to overcome a glitch. I’d do it here, but if I connect to the internet tonight, I cant return it if it doesn’t connect tomorrow. This is typical of the kind of annoying problems you face in Uruguay that are unheard of (for at least the last 50 years) in North America.
On Monday, I’ll write about the 2nd half of this project… Getting it to work.