Telephony in Belize

After using a smart phone in America that can do much more than the four or five things I ever do with it, it seems a little excessive that this is our current telephone arsenal in Belize:


But wait! We apparently need each of these, for different reasons.

1. For a monthly fee, the Magic Jack “landline” gives us pretty reliable phone contact with stateside friends and family. This phone is only active, though, when we have a live Internet connection, so it’s not a given that you can call us or we can call you (more on this in a moment).

2 & 3. The two “stupid” mobile phones here are our local lines – we can call each other, or anyone else with a Belize local line, using these.

The two providers here are BTL (Belize Telemedia Limited), which we use, or SMART (note: A “SMART phone” is not to be confused with a “smart phone” – ie, iPhone, Android, etc).

We brought the purple phone and just needed to buy a SIM card for it, and purchased the mini black phone and a SIM card for about $20 US.

These phones have to be “topped off” on a regular basis with minutes, which expire in either 30 or 90 days if you don’t use them. If you’re close to the deadline date, though, and you bring the phone to a BTL or SMART office, or to one of their qualified agents (most Chinese stores in the area, among other places), you can “top off” with a minimum of two dollars, and then the existing minutes will roll over. Yeah, it’s a racket, but at least they send a text notification so you don’t forget.

4 and 5. Our trusty iPhones have the accounts disabled while we are here so we don’t get charged insane roaming fees. We can still use them to text for free to anyone else with an iPhone, assuming we have an active Internet connection, but mostly they are useful as cameras.

6. This is a local Belize phone (through Smart) for the lagoon house property – so realtors can call us to schedule a showing, if need be.

So that’s the phones. The other part of the package is Internet devices.

As I mentioned previously, at the beach property we had straight-shot Internet connectivity across the bay to the BTL tower in Corozal through an antenna at the yellow house. It was pretty reliable and essentially “unlimited” access – well, as long as we had power, which we had to conserve there, so not really – or at least not always.

Also mentioned previously, the Progresso area has a similar infrastructure – and wonder of wonders, we can have as much electricity here as we’re willing to pay for, unless there’s an outage – but it can’t be used at the moment for political reasons.

Grr. It’s just never easy, is it?

Of course, we could be having the same frustrations in America on some days – and when I recall just where we are, it’s actually pretty impressive that the Belize system works as well as it does.

Anyway, the owners of this property used a dongle purchased through SMART for their Internet connection, which they left here. Like their SMART phone, you have to top it off with minutes through a plan.

Progresso-BTL-towerAt the moment, we’re not using it because we bought a mi-fi device through BTL instead. Their tower in Progresso is on the south side of the village, which is good since we are just two miles further down the road. Even so, we generally have to set the device in one of the windows pointed that way to get reception.

Which wouldn’t be an issue except that the device only charges through USB on one of our laptops – ie, no charger that you can plug into the wall – so it has a limited charge life.

Again, it’s always something. But I digress whine.

Sheez! Telecommunications is definitely one more thing I will take less for granted whenever we return to America, along with the other biggies: Water, power, and paved roads. [Aside: Not sure if this is accurate, but it was on the Internet: There are 1,594 miles of roads in Belize, 303 of which are paved. Sounds about right.]

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