Marine Electronics | St. Maarten

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3G/4G

3G / 3G+ / 4G HSPA+ Services in St. Maarten/St. Martin and Neighboring Islands

Updated: May 20152012-06-14 21.31.09

Those of you returning to St. Maarten for the 2014-2015 winter season will be happy to find that broadband cellular data is now widely available throughout the Northeastern Caribbean. You will find services confusingly named 3G, 3G+ or 4G HSPA+, which designate theoretically different maximum speeds, but are essentially marketing hype for the same kind of service. In small markets such as Caribbean islands, your Internet speeds are likely to be capped at whatever the carrier has made available to you rather than technical specifications of a standard.

Our area is at a demarcation point between cellular frequency bands- The Virgin Islands, Anguilla (C&W) and Antigua are on the North American (850/1900MHz) bands while St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla (Digicel)  and the islands to the south are on the European (900/1800/2100MHz) variety. Luckily, any recent GSM phone or router should be able to establish at least a 3G connection anywhere in the region.

While establishing service in any one location is relatively easy, traveling can be a mess. In St. Maarten/St. Martin in particular, you could be within the coverage area of three different countries and two cellular bands. When moving between islands you’ll find that you may be still on your previous network (with a weak signal), on a partner network (with the same or different level of service), or roaming. It can take a bit of tinkering to ensure that you are connected to the correct provider for you area and plan.

St. Maarten (Dutch Side)

Chippie (UTS)

Chippie has a new island-wide 3G service voice/data service. The service is also available in St. Barth, but data is 2G only.

Prepaid data accounts are available with the following data buckets:

Data Bucket Valid For Credit Required SMS to Send
500MB 1 day $2.25 3GVP 1D
2.5MB 10 days $18.75 3GVP 10D
4GB 30 days $35.00 3GVP 30D

To activate a new prepaid account:

  1. Purchase a Chippie 3G USIM. Note that many of the SIM cards sold at various locations are 2G-only and will not work. Make sure the SIM has a 3G logo on it.
  2. At the point of purchase, load the SIM card with the enough credit for your intended use.
  3. Place the SIM card in the phone or router.
  4. Send an SMS to 3434 with your desired package code.
  5. Configure your device to use the following APNAME: “premium”

Telcell

Telcell has 3G coverage in most of the Dutch-side and everywhere on water with a clear view of their Dutch-side antennas, such as Marigot Bay and Orient Bay. On other parts on the French side there should now be coverage though a roaming agreement with Digicel.

 

The Telcell prepaid service is optimized for smartphones, includes voice, and may appear slow when used on a computer or shared among multiple people through a router.   Prepaid voice/data accounts are available with the following data buckets:

Data Bucket Valid For Credit Required SMS to Send
200MB 1 day $2 “3G ON” to 1001
500MB 7 days $10 “3G ON” to 1007
2GB 30 days $32.00 “3G ON” to 1030
“3G AUTO” to 1030 for auto renewal

To activate a new prepaid account:

  1. Purchase a Telcell voice/data SIM. This is the standard SIM card that is available everywhere
  2. At the point of purchase, load the SIM card with the enough credit for your intended use
  3. Please the SIM card in the phone or router
  4. Send an SMS with the with your desired package code
  5. Configure your device to use the following APNAME: “internet.telcell.an”

St. Martin (French Side) and St. Barth

Both Digicel, Orange Caraibes and UTS/Chippie (see above) offer voice and data service.

Digicel offers a 2GB prepaid data plan which should also cover the Dutch Side (through agreement with Telcell) and St. Barth. Best place to get a SIM card is their store in Howell Center. However, they now appear to block many popular VoIP services, so buyer beware!

Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts /Nevis and Islands South

3G+/4G HSPA service is now available throughout most Digicel territories, including prepaid voice/data.

Many boaters have been asking for a seamless solution that will work throughout the Caribbean, and Digicel is slowly moving towards providing one. There are a couple of third-parties offering a data-only solution and we are in the process of testing one ourselves. There are several technical and logistical issues that need to be solved for such a service to work reliably, and we are not yet certain that all the kinks have been ironed. Test carefully and enjoy if it works!

4G WIMAX

As in last season, 4G Wi-Max service in St. Maarten is available from both CaribServe and Scarlet. CaribServe boxes can be rented from most major marinas, as well as from The Business Point at Simpson Bay Yacht Club. Scarlet boxes can be rented at their location on Welfare Road.

4G LTE

LTE has now been widely deployed in North America and Europe, but in the Caribbean it is taking baby steps. Currently there are only a few services we are aware of:

  • In Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, LTE is offered by the large USA carriers, same as in the Continental U.S.
  • In Antigua, LTE is offered by Digicel. The service operates on Band 17 (700MHz) – same as AT&T in the U.S.

Onboard Equipment

3G/4G Data TerminalsGlobeSurfer III+

For non-LTE data/voice applications,  the GlobeSurfer 3+ is still our favorite. It is simple to use, but has enough configuration options to view available networks and configure connection settings to ensure that you are locking on the correct network. SIM cards are relatively easy to switch when moving between countries.

The Globesurfers that we provide are configured to access both 900/1800 and 850/1900 bands at the same time, something that many other routers do not allow.

For LTE service, for the time being, it is best to stick with data routers that are expressly compatible with the carrier you will be using. That means that when traveling between regions of the world, you are likely to switch equipment as you move.

Will My Existing Device Work Here?

If you are arriving in the Caribbean with an existing GSM/3G/4G device, consider the following:

  1. Many newer devices that have LTE support do not work with all 3G/UMTS bands
  2. Older devices (like some made by Ericsson or Telular) may quad-band GSM but not quad-band 3G/UMTS, or may be dual-band only
  3. If the last network your device was connected to was on a North-American bands (for example coming in from the USVI or using LIME in Anguilla) then it may need to be powered off or reset before it can see/connect to networks using the European bands.

Cellular Antennas

For GSM/3G/HSPA applications, quad-band marine antennas are the best performers. They offer high gain, integrate with standard marine mounts and blend in with the overall yacht aesthetics.

New generation “bullet” wideband antennas offer surprisingly good performance for their wide range of frequencies which include the new LTE bands. They are now available with a standard marine mount making installation easier.