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Basics Edit

There are 3-4 operators in the country:

  • Claro (formely Comcel)
  • Movistar
  • Tigo (merged with UNE)
  • Avantel (4G/LTE-only)

MVNOs like UFF móvil, Móvil Éxito, Virgin Mobile and Avantel are operating on these networks giving Colombia the largest virtual operator's market in Latin America.

Claro is now the market leader with about 1/2 of all customers and the best network, followed by Movistar and Tigo as smallest net. 2G and 3G is on 850 MHz on Claro and Movistar and 1900 MHz on Tigo. 4G/LTE started 2013/4 on 2600 MHz on Claro and Tigo and 1700 MHz (AWS) on Movistar and Tigo and reaches already 50% of population in 2015. It's open for prepaid on all network providers, but not on most MVNOs. Anatel started a 4G/LTE network only on 1700 MHz and roams on all other three networks for 2G/3G.

Coverage is very good with all three providers. Note: only Claro works in Cabo de la Vela/La Guajira. Because it's expensive to call between networks many locals have a SIM card for each of the three providers and swap them out to change networks.

Regulations Edit

To purchase a phone or SIM you'll need to show identification and proof of address (your hotel is fine). This is supposedly for security but in fact it's to prevent the street vendors from purchasing phones in bulk and competing with the cell-phone provider's own centers. There have been cases of identity theft (they will photocopy your documents) so only purchase a cell phone from a provider's official retail outlet.

IMEI registration Edit

At the end of 2016 the Colombian regulator CRC introduced a mandatory IMEI registration of all devices used with a local operator. You now have to register your IMEI with your carrier or your phone will be blocked. Bringing a phone from abroad to the country, it needs to be added to their whitelist. You don't have to do it when you purchase your SIM card, but you soon start getting SMS from your carrier warning your phone will be blocked after 30 days. Registration is free, but you should have a proof of purchase and your phone should be on their long list of approved phones (Terminales Homologadas). You can check whether your phone is on the list by looking at this CRC website. All operators are required to verify and identify the IMEI phone identity numbers via a whitelist to block mobile phones reported stolen or lost. To find out your 15-digit-IMEI enter *#06#. The registration differs between the operators and is shown further below at each provider.

Colombia is not grey-listed like Chile, because in Colombia it's not a prerequisite to have your IMEI listed before you buy a SIM card and it might not concern you when you stay for less than 30 days. However, it's now recommended to bring with you a copy of the invoice of your device to prove ownership, if you want to stay for more than 30 days and use a local SIM card.

Taxation Edit

Changes in VAT rules in Colombia took effect at the start of 2017 making mobile communications more expensive. In addition to an increase in the general VAT rate from 16% to 19%, the 4% sales tax on voice services will be extended to mobile internet and data services that cost more than COP 44,630 per month.

Claro (formerly Comcel)Edit

Claro-0

In 2013 Claro merged with Comcel, dropping the name Comcel. They are now the market leaders in Colombia with the best nationwide coverage. 4G/LTE on 2600 MHz (Band 7) is available for prepaid in about 200 towns and 28 capitals served by its network: 2G 3G 4G coverage map

Availability Edit

Their SIM card called Prepago fácil can be bought not only in their shops (shop locator), but also at lot of agencies bearing their logo. That's where you can buy top-up vouchers called tajetas amigo too.

Claro SIMs are available at the airport, at the small gift/snack shop just in front of international arrivals (turn right as you emerge from the immigration/customs area). Look for the sign "Recarga Minutos": SIMs are available if you ask at the counter. No ID or address was required to purchase one, and though no or little English may be spoken, it was easy to get a SIM para siete dias (a SIM for 7 days) for COP 15,000, and you’ll leave with it fully activated in your phone / topped-up / plan activated with 450 MB. (As of Nov-17.) You will need to pay in cash. (They will take euro or USD, but at a rather poor exchange rate.)

A starter pack for BYOP (Bring your own phone) is called Welcome Package (Paquete de bienvenida). It's promoted at COP 1000 (tax incl.) but can be up to COP 5000. It comes with some start-up goodies. To activate you need to place a chargeable call.

Often top-ups are promoted with free data bonuses. You can top-up COP 1,000 to 100,000 giving 1-30 days of validity. You can check credit with *611# and then chose option 4 “Consultas y Servicio” and then option 1 “Saldo y Numero”.

IMEI registration Edit

At purchase or when you get messages you should register the IMEI number of your device. This can be done at a Claro store, in your personal account Mi Claro or calling customer support *611# then 7 followed by 2 when you speak Spanish.

Data feature packs Edit

Default rate is 169 COP per MB. These data packages are available:

Validity Volume Price (tax incl.)
1 day 9 MB COP 990
1 day 40 MB COP 2,000
2 days 120 MB COP 4,000
7 days 500 MB COP 15,000
15 days 1 GB COP 20,900
30 days 2 GB COP 42,900

You can subscribe to the packages by typing *611# and choose option 1 "paquetes de datos". Packages will auto-renew. To stop it from doing so, text 'SALIR' to 798.

All data outside packages is charged with COP 0.2041 per KB. Packages are also on 4G/LTE, where available and up to 12 Mbps. The same packages can be used in tablets and modems too. Data of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp (no VoIP calls) are not debited form your allowances.

More info Edit

Movistar Edit

Movistar-0

Telefónica acquired the former state-owned Colombia Telecomunicaciones in 2006 and sells it under its brand name of Movistar. It's now the 2nd operator in the country giving good coverage and speed. 4G/LTE has started in 5 main cities – Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga on 1700 MHz (Band 4) and 77 municipalities. 2G 3G 4G coverage map and was opened for prepaid.

Availability Edit

The SIM card can be bought in their shops and agencies (locator of sales points). Their standard prepaid plan is called "Plan prepago por segundos" and doesn't have data included.

That's where you can buy their top-up vouchers too. Movistar often runs promotions in which they double or triple the face value of a recharge. This mostly applies to online top-ups on their website by credit card.

The starter pack called chip is sold for around COP 2,000 COP (tax incl.) but can be discounted or awarded with bonuses in promotions. You can check credit with *611# and options 7 > 1 > 1 for credit and 7 > 1 > 2 for data.

IMEI registration Edit

You should register your device at the point of purchase by its IMEI number or when you get messages that it will be blocked if not doing so. You can do this at a store or online on a dedicated website in Spanish.

Data feature packs Edit

If you haven't added a data package, their daily rate will apply: COP 950 for 15 MB until midnight. If you use more data, another COP 950 will be charged. So better add one of these packages:

Validity Data Volume Price (tax incl.)
1 hour 50 MB COP 1,000
1 day 100 MB COP 1,700
2 days 220 MB COP 3,200
3 days 330 MB COP 4,700
7 days 900 MB COP 14,200
30 days 2 GB COP 42,900
30 days 3 GB COP 52,900

To activate type *611#, go to option 3 "Paq Datos" then option 1 "Cobro Unica Vez" for a one time payment, then choose your plan. Or choose a bundle through your online account. Speed is on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.

More info Edit

  • APN: internet.movistar.com.co
  • Username and password: movistar
  • Website: www.movistar.co

Tigo (merged with UNE)Edit

Tigo-0

In 2014 the merger of the two smallest networks in Colombia UNE and Tigo was finalized. The name UNE was dropped and the new joined network ist marketed under the name of Tigo. They are still the smallest network in the country with slightly less coverage and 4G/LTE is available for prepaid on 1700 MHz (Band 4) : 2G 3G 4G coverage list according to municipalities

Availabililty Edit

The SIM card can be bought in their shops (sales points locator) and other agencies. That's where you can buy their top-up vouchers too. They have different prepaid plans, but none of them includes data. So it doesn't matter much for data, which one you buy.

The starter pack called chip is sold for around COP 5,000 with some credit, but can be discounted in promotions. Their default plan is called 'Plan por Segundos'. They also sell preloaded chips with a precharged credit of COP 45 000 to 499 000 valid for up to a year.

You can check credit with *611# For more data you need to add packages.

IMEI registration Edit

At a Claro store, through their dedicated website (in Spanish) or by calling customer support *300 option 6 (in Spanish) you can register your IMEI if you get SMS warnings before being blocked.

Data feature packs Edit

They offer a huge variety of packages available:

Validity Volume Price (tax incl.) Activation Remarks
until

midnight

30 MB COP 1 900 'DIA' to 409 auto-renew,

WA, FB

40 MB COP 999 'HORA' to 201
200 MB COP 1 500 'DIA' to 202 auto-renewal,

WA, FB

COP 1 800 'HOY' to 201
unlimited COP 3 200 'BASICO' to 730
2 days 120 MB COP 2 500 'DIA' to 204
3 days 200 MB COP 3 700 'DIA' to 201
100 MB COP 3 900 '3 DIAS' to 409 WA, FB
7 days 350 MB COP 13 900 'SEMANA' to 409 WA, FB
600 MB COP 13 000 'SEMANA' to 204
1 GB COP 19 800 'NAVEGA' to 818 auto-renewal
COP 19 800 'SEMANA' to 201
unlimited COP 11 000 'BASICO7' to 730
15 days 1 GB COP 20 900 'STOTAL15' to 409 auto-renewal
1 GB COP 24 900 'TOTAL15' to 409
30 days 100 MB COP 15 900 through Tigo App WA, FB
1.5 GB COP 34 900 'MES' to 700
2 GB COP 45 000 'MES' to 202 auto-renewal
COP 39 000 'MES' to 204 WA, FB
3 GB COP 45 000 'MES' to 201 WA, FB

Activation is by text to the respective number or by *111#. Only these packages indicated, auto-renew, if not cancelled. All days are counted until midnight. Outside of package use is 12 COP per KB. Packages are on 4G/LTE, where available up to 10 Mbit/s. Some bundles include unlimited Whatsapp (WA) and Facebook (FB) not debited on the data volume. The unlimited packages are throttled in speed.

More info Edit

Avantel Edit

Avantel

Avantel started its 4G/LTE network in 2014 on AWS Band 4 (1700 MHz). All three remaining providers were ordered to supply roaming for 2G and 3G. That's why Anatel has the best 2G/3G coverage, but is limited with their own 4G/LTE to the capital of Bogota: 2G/3G/4G coverage.

Availability Edit

Their prepaid SIM card can be ordered online to a Colombian postal address or in their stores and sales points (locator). It's for COP 5000 with COP 1000 credit pre-loaded.

You can top-up online or with codes for Baloto (lottery) kiosks or in Éxito, Carulla, Surtimax y Super Inter markets. Check balance by *901.

IMEI registration Edit

When you get warnings about being shut off, you should register your IMEI number on their dedicated website or calling an agent by *350 (in Spanish).

Data feature packages Edit

Default rate without a package is COP 49 per MB. These packages for data can be added and have a different share for their 2G/3G roaming outside Bogota and 4G/LTE in Bogota.

Validity 2G/3G data 4G data Price (tax incl.) Activation
1 day 60 MB 60 MB COP 2000 PDATOS2
3 days 90 MB 90 MB COP 3000 PDATOS3
7 days 300 MB 300 MB COP 10,000 online
30 days 1 GB 1 GB COP 20,000 online
30 days 500 MB 2.5 GB COP 30,000 online
30 days 0 5 GB COP 30,000 online

Packages can be activated by *990, texting code to 85534 or online by credit card payment. To packages 150 MB WhatsApp is added, but VoIP calls are excluded from this allowance.

More info Edit

  • APN: lte.avantel.com.co
  • Website in Spanish:

Virgin Mobile Edit

Virgin mobile

The British Virgin Group started in 2013 as MVNO on the network of Movistar in 2G, 3G and new on 4G/LTE and has become the largest MVNO in the country with more than 2 million users.

Availability Edit

SIM card is available in their agencies: (list at "compra tu SIM"). Reloads at the places on the list called "recarga tu SIM". It is sold for COP 10,000 in all three sizes and has the same credit preloaded. The SIM needs to be activated online. They have a strict limit of 10 GB FUP per month.

IMEI registration Edit

To register your IMEI number (see Basics) you can text the word EQUIPO to 456, dial *111 option 1 then 2 or call customer service by *111 option 9.

Data feature packs Edit

The have these data packages called "bolsa de datos":

Validity Volume Price (tax incl.) Extras
24 hours 20 MB COP 600
24 hours 65 MB COP 2,000
24 hours 140 MB COP 4,000
2 days 40 MB COP 1,000
7 days 500 MB COP 12,000
30 days 1 GB COP 22,000 WA
30 days 2.5 GB COP 40,000 WA + 15 min

Packages must be booked online on your customer account or may be activated via *111# menu. Additionally, they sell bundles for WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

More info Edit

Móvil Éxito Edit

Exito

The retail group Exito started its MVNO in 2013 on the Tigo network in 2G,3G and on 4G/LTE.

Availability Edit

SIM card is available in all markets of the biggest retail group called Éxito, Carullo and Surtimax (sales points). It is sold for COP 5,000. ID is needed to buy the SIM card.

Recharges of COP 1,000 to 100,000 can be made there and at a lot of more shops too. They are valid for 60 days. Check credit by *3333#.

IMEI registration Edit

You need to register your IMEI number or your phone will be blocked after about 30 days. This can be done through their dedicated website or calling customer support.

Data feature packs Edit

These packages are on 4G/LTE too where available:

Validity Volume Price (tax incl.) Remarks
1 day 10 MB COP 500 only sold in Éxito, Carulla, Surtimax and Super Inter
24 hours 150 MB COP 2,500 only sold in Éxito, Carulla, Surtimax and Super Inter
7 days 400 MB COP 9,900 only sold in Éxito, Carulla, Surtimax and Super Inter
30 days 1 GB COP 19,900
30 days 2 GB COP 24,900
30 days 3 GB COP 37,900

Activate by calling *999.

More info Edit

UFF Móvil Edit

UFF Móvil was the oldest MVNO in the country, when it started in 2010 on the network of Tigo.

In July 2018 they informed users that it shuts down on 27 July; affected users had only until 31 July to port their number to an alternative provider. According to local press reports, Uff’s closure was forced by network host Tigo, which is owed around COP 8 billion by the failed virtual operator.