By Marion V. Ali
High speed or home/work internet prices in Belize have gone down since October 2014, when prices were slashed by half and the speeds doubled. But according to Caribbean standards, Belize still ranks among the countries that offer the slowest speeds and still the highest prices.
A price index from Google for May 2014 shows prices before and after the adjustments, but Belize still ranks low among countries with fastest speeds and cheapest rates.
In Belize 1 megabyte internet speed sells now for $44 US, compared to Jamaica, where the same speed is priced at $25.05 US. In some countries, such as the Cayman Islands, 2 megabytes or double the speed sells for $36.84 US.
As far as mobile internet is concerned, BTL, which is the bigger of the two major telecommunication companies offering the service, made adjustments effective January 1, 2015 that introduced the more affordable 4 G mobile internet plans for prepaid customers, from as low as $2 for 75 megabytes per day, or $10 for 400 megabytes for seven days, or a 30-day plan of 1 gigabyte for $30.
The latter replaced the plan that existed up to December 2014, when customers could access the same 1 gigabyte of data for either $20 or $30 per week, depending on whether the customer chose the leisure plan, which was from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., or the 24/7 plan, the more expensive of the two. The $5 and $8 daily plans, which gave more than the 75 megabytes now being offered, were also scrapped.
SMART, the other phone company, runs comparatively similar prices and data packages on its 3 G network.
BTL also has packages it has developed for its postpaid customers, who can sign up for one of four packages, starting from $49 to $249 per month. All except the first come with free data and a bonus on-net, talk and text credits. If the customer exceeds that limit, BTL charges an extra five cents for each text to another BTL number, 10 cents for each text sent to a SMART number, 10 cents per minute for calls to any BTL number, and 35 cents per minute to any SMART number.
According to BTL’s Mobile Product Manager, Lisa Stanford, BTL came up with all these new plans after the company conducted a survey to find out what its customers want.
“For the majority of customers, the past plans weren’t popular. These new plans seem to work.”
This is in conformity with the Facebook index released two weeks ago which shows that an increasing number of Belizeans are on Facebook on a daily basis.
We asked Stanford why the company decided to disallow customers the choice to purchase data from their bonus credits when they double or triple up.
Her response: “We’re moving towards industry standards regionally and globally and … people have changed the way they use their credits.” She could not specify how prepaid customers now use their credits.
While prepaid customers can no longer purchase data from their bonus credits, Stanford explained, they can make international calls and purchase text bundles or call BTL numbers using bonus credits.
Customers who do use their internet credits for doing heavier work, such as downloading and uploading news, pictures and videos, or for extensive research and for whom the 75 megabytes for $2 a day simply won;t work, Stanford says that as part of BTL’s ongoing monthly promotions, for the month of April, prepaid customers who purchase either of the 4G’s $10 or $30 plans, will receive double the data currently offered.
While BTL’s high speed internet is not among the best in the region, Stanford claimed that the company’s mobile rates, for post paid and prepaid internet, rank BTL as the third cheapest in the region at the industry standard speed across the Caribbean.
Stanford says BTL tries to develop new plans and monthly promotions based on what customers ask for, and t since the changes were made in January, “the majority of the customers are benefitting … and are satisfied.”