With the move to open the telecommunications market to international competition, Costa Rica's monopolistic telecom company ICE is racing to get 3G towers and new cell phone and internet services throughout the market before the competitors start offering services. Grupo ICE, which stands for Instituto Costarricense de Elictricidad, has had a monopoly on all electricity needs, telecom needs and internet. Under the new CAFTA regulations, competition is now set to enter the market and start offering services in both telecommunications and internet. New subscriber agreements with major telecom service companies in the US will soon be reality. Now maybe our Verizon, AT&T and other phones will finally work in Costa Rica.
Nearly 100 companies applied to enter the market in Costa Rica but the list of companies was pared down to 6. ICE had traditionally been slow to provide cell phones, wire lines and internet to residents in the country. It was especially difficult for foreigners to get phone service and cell phones. How quickly things have changed. Now ICE is installing new 3G towers all over the country. We recently had a new tower erected in Ojochal as well as in Cortez, near our latest developments in Chontales. Now it is possible to get a new 3G chip that installs in a wireless router, boasting download speeds of 1 Mbs, faster than most domestic DSL in the states. Now we have workers on our construction teams sporting blackberry's, Iphones and the like, checking their text messages and surfing the web from their phones. We are just now getting ready to install a new 3G router at the guest house, allowing faster surfing, the use of phone services like Magic Jack and Vonage. We have been using Magic Jack through our DSL line but the signal is often broken up when a lot of people are using the net at the guest house.
Costa Rica has realized that wireless is the new wave, skipping much of the wired generation that most of us in the states are used to. Though electricity still has to be hard wired, most are now opting for wireless telecom and internet services. Those who make their living via the internet will now find it much easier to quickly upload and download what they need.