If you think you'll be traveling a lot within Ecuador, or live far from a city, Claro internet service is probably what you'll need to stay connected to friends and family.
Known as banda ancha móvil (mobile broadband), cellular internet allows you to connect to the internet wherever you can pick up cell phone service, which is just about everywhere in Ecuador.
There are several options available, including portable and home service on a payment plan, and prepaid (and much more expensive) if you're here for just a few days at a time. You can even obtain a netbook if you don't already have a computer.
Or choose from Claro's wired internet plans, from 512 Kbits/sec up to 8 Mbits/sec (that's very fast for Ecuador).
If you've ever used a thumb drive or similar USB storage device that plugs into your computer, then you're familiar with the modem that Claro provides to those who want portability.
Not much bigger than a thumb drive, your Claro modem connects to the internet from your notebook computer's USB port. You then dial up as you might have done 10 years ago with a desktop dialup modem, but it's at a much faster connection.
If you prefer, there's a desktop model that's bigger, and lets up to five computers access the internet at the same time. The office version gives you more gigabytes of download and upload than the home version.
The service runs on a 3.5G cellular network (4G with much higher speeds will be in Cuenca soon), which means you'll connect at a speed of up to 1.2 Mbits/sec (although Jeff has seen speeds as high as 2.0 Mb/sec.
The only catch with the cellular systems, including Claro internet service, is that your speed goes down on the unlimited plans, or you pay more after you reach your limit, on the limited plans.
After you reach your monthly limit, you pay for any additional megabytes of download (to your computer) and upload (sent emails, online photo storage, your side of Skype/MagicJack calls, etc.)
Per megabyte costs add up fast. It's much cheaper to buy a bigger package than it is to pay for the same amount as extra bandwidth. Or go unlimited and live with the slower speed after 5GB of bandwidth.
If you want total portability, you'll want one of the thumb drive-type devices. If you live somewhere without access to cable or phone DSL, you'll want the home or office plan.
The monthly plans are labeled as postpago (post-paid—in other words, they take the money out of your account after the month is up, rather than making you pay first).
All prices are correct at the time of writing. However, since many of these are special offers, they may be less or more expensive when you check yourself.
The Claro internet services site is www.claro.com.ec/wps/portal/ec/pc/personas/internet. Even though it's all in Spanish, everything is easy to understand.
If you need the internet only for email and surfing the web, one of the cheaper plans will likely fill the bill for you.
The device is free, but you need to sign an 18 month contract. Otherwise, the device is $56 including the tax.
The unlimited plan is now available with tablets, including the Galaxy Tab.
If you're stationary but don't have access to any other internet provider, the Mi Hogar or Mi Oficina plan may work for you.
The Mi Hogar and Mi Oficina plans come with a free email account, if you think you'll need one.
All payments are by direct debit from your bank account, so you'll need one set up with an Ecuadorian bank or credit union if you want a Postpago service.
The prepaid (pay as you go) plans are much more expensive, but if you're only here for short periods (like a week at a time), this could end up costing less. There are two options.
Additional KBs (not MBs) are .2 cents each, which works out to $2.00 plus tax per MB.
You also have to buy the device, which will run you $110.88 including the tax.
If you aren't bringing a computer, you aren't stuck using internet cafes. Claro offers two netbook services on an 18 month plan.
At the end of the 18 months, the netbook is yours.
If you have an iPhone, Blackberry or other smartphone, Claro also offers internet for it. Prices are expensive for what you receive, but if you need access to email all the time, it may be worth it.This link displays the prices and also discusses roaming internet charges for other countries.
And there are now plans for the Galaxy Tab and a Huawei tablet. Both come with limited or unlimited plans. The good news is that they both come with cameras, and they both allow you to tether multiple computers to them, giving them all access to the internet. That's definitely a problem with the cellular modem devices.
If you need faster connections,or need unlimited downloads and uploads, Claro's new service is right for you. You can get as high as 15 Mbit/sec (the fastest we've seen here in Ecuador, by a big margin!), with unlimited downloads and uploads, for $145 plus IVA tax ($162.40 total). And that includes free installation and free wireless equipment to share your connection with other computers.
Yes, that's expensive by North American standards. But consider that Jeff was paying $175 a month in Cotacachi for .256 Mbit/sec wireless (in other words, 1/60th of Claro's top speed).
If you don't need 15 Mb/sec, or even 8 Mb, go with one of the slower plans. All the info is here.
Claro's wired service, provided by Ecuadortelecom S.A., is currently only available in Quito and Guayaquil.
Claro internet service includes a wide range of options for those on the go and those who can't use other internet services.
If you need your service to call North America or Europe using Skype or MagicJack, you may want to go with the top Postpago plan, which offers 10 GB of downloads and uploads for one year. Or, if you don't need portability, use the wired internet now offered by Claro.
If you don't need communications, and don't download a lot of videos, one of the cheaper plans should be enough for your needs.
Or go wired and get very fast internet with unlimited downloads and uploads with Claro's new fijo service.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!