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French West Indies

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Basics Edit

Territories Edit

This article is about the French West Indies, also called French Antilles, in the Carribean and French Guiana in South America under sovereignty of France.

It's in detail about the three overseas departments of:

  • Guadeloupe (Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre) including the islands forming dependencies of Guadeloupe, namely Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Désirade
  • Martinique
  • French Guiana (French: Guyane) - not to be mixed up with Guyana

The two French overseas collectives also called Northern Islands (French: Iles du Nord) with Saint Martin (French: Saint-Martin) and Saint Barths (French: Saint-Barthélemy) are treated in the St. Martin chapter. Rates are the same amongst all French islands in the Caribbean.

They are all French Overseas Departments (in French: départements et territoires d'outre-mer, or in short: DOM-TOM) and thus part of the European Union. In these areas the same operators are present, each forming one network regulated by French Arcep without roaming charges between islands. That's why they are gathered here in one article.

Operators Edit

  • Orange Caraïbe
  • SFR Caraïbe (formerly Outremer Télécom/Only)
  • Digicel

Free mobile from France is announced to enter the markets in Guadeloupe and Martinique soon with an own 4G/LTE network in all islands promising lower prices.

2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G up to HSDPA on 2100 MHz. In 2016 the French regulatur Arcep awarded frequencies on 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz for 4G/LTE service. Orange and SFR started to roll out their 4G/LTE in December 2016.

Coverage ranges from excellent in Martinique and Guadeloupe to only few areas covered along the coast in French Guiana. La Poste Mobile is the first MVNO in these islands reselling the Orange network.

Caribbean Roaming Edit

Users of the Carribean networks can use their respective network in all territories mentioned above without roaming surcharges. All French providers (Digicel only for voice) offer free roaming on the Dutch side of St. Martin as well as the small islands of St. Eustatius and Saba (which are covered by the same networks as the Dutch side).

Even if the two major operators Orange and SFR of mainland France are active in these areas, European clients of Orange or SFR can't use their Carribean counterparts without additional fees. But is probably about to change when all roaming surcharges within the EU will be scrapped from June 2017.

Data rates in the French West Indies remain quite high making these countries the most expensive in the Caribbean. Like in France, this is true only for prepaid SIM cards. Rates are much lower on any kind of contract. For a contract you are required to hold a French bank card and/or account.

EU Roaming Edit

The French Overseas Territories are considered to be ultraperiferic parts of the European Union. So EU/EEA roaming regulations apply, if you are holding a SIM card issued in an EU country (see European Union). Given the high prices for data in the French West Indies, you may think of using your home EU-issued SIM card for roaming or pick a cheap EU roaming SIM instead of a local SIM. Always check if the French Carribean is really included within the offered roaming countries. At least Guadeloupe and Martinique must be mentioned specifially as roaming destinations.

Given the abolition of most roaming fees within the EU/EEA from June 2017, this option may prove to be the cheaper alternative. For details about the complicated situation in St. Martin check its own chapter.

Orange Caraïbe Edit

Orange UK

Like in mainland France, the Carribean counterpart of Orange, run by France Télécom, is market leader with the most customers and antennas in the area: coverage maps. It gives out data on prepaid at very high rates.

In 2016 4G/LTE was launched in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy with access speeds of 300 Mbps over Orange Caraibe’s LTE-A network (marketed as 4G+), available for prepaid without surcharges (for 4G coverage maps scroll down).

Availability Edit

Their prepaid SIM card is only called "Card" and sold for 15 € in their stores (sales points) an on 4G/LTE too. Two different plans are sold: Card classique and Card seconde, both with the data rates,

Top-ups can be made there or online from 5 € valid for 6 days to 100 € for 180 days. SIM card stays vaild for 9 months after the last recharge. To top-up by voucher, type #124#<14-digit PIN code>. To ckeck balance, type #123#.

Data rates Edit

Orange Caraibes standard prepaid rates are amongst the highest in the world. The default rate is at 0.01€ per 10 KB, thus selling 1 MB at 1€.

The only way to add more data outside of this default rate is to add special top-ups. Not the classic ones called classique, but their new Recharges Internet:

  • 5 €: 200 MB for 7 days
  • 10 €: 500 MB for 10 days
  • 20 €: 1 GB for 30 days

These recharges are only sold online, by app or by entering #124#. It can be taken from preloaded credit or paid by credit card. But only French-issued cartes bancaires are accepted for payment.

Data-only SIM Edit

For tablets and routers Orange sells a data SIM called Pass Internet Everywhere. The starter is sold for 19 € with 1 GB valid for 30 days. Data default rate stays at the same unfavourable 1 € per MB and modem use is allowed. You can add these add-on packages:

  • 2 €: 100 MB
  • 4 €: 300 MB
  • 6 €: 500 MB

More info Edit

SFR Caraïbe (formerly Outremer Télécom / Only) Edit

SFR

Numericable bought Outremer Télécom with its brand Only and changed its name to SFR in summer of 2015. Like in France, it's the 2nd provider in the Carribean with good coverage and speeds at prices a bit lower than Orange's: (2G 3G 4G coverage maps - for other islands change country).

In 2016 4G/LTE was started by SFR in Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana marketed with theoretical speeds of 70 Mbps in Guadeloupe (95% population coverage), Martinique (98%) and French Guiana (70%) for prepaid without surcharges.

Availability Edit

SFR calls its prepaid SIM card "SFR La Carte" and sells it for 15 € in their stores (locator - for other areas, change country). It comes with 10 € credit at activation and another 10 € credited after the first top-up. They have two prepaid plans called Carte Classique and Carte Smile. For data better take the smile card as a bonus of 20 MB per top-up is added and it has a lower default rate.

Top-ups are by vouchers of 5, 10, 20 or 40 € at their boutiques, post offices and sales partners giving 15 to 90 days of validity.

Data rates Edit

On their Smile line data outside of bonuses is charged at 0.154 € per MB which is more reasonable than Orange. On the Classique line data are at 0.20 € per MB. Finally, reasonable data packages have been introduced:

  • 3 €: 150 MB for 3 days
  • 5 €: 250 MB for 5 days
  • 10 €: 500 MB for 10 days

Activation is by calling 224. A confirmation SMS is sent out.

Data-only SIM Edit

SFR also offers a data SIM for routers, tablets, modems called: Carré Internet en mobilité. This comes as contract (forfait) or prepaid (sans engagement). The prepaid SIM card is sold in two sizes:

  • with 1 GB preloaded for 30 days: 14.99 €
  • with 10 GB preloaded for 30 days: 24.99 €

You can also add regular recharge cards to the Carré:

  • 5 €: 250 MB for 15 days
  • 10 €: 500 MB for 30 days
  • 20 €: 1.1 GB for 60 days
  • 40 €: 2.2 GB for 90 days

More info Edit

Digicel Edit

Digicel

Digicel is the only provider, that is not active in mainland France, but on many other islands of the Carribean.

As the 3rd provider it still has reasonable coverage in most areas and it's selling data at a lower price than its competitors and data packages too: 3G coverage maps., but no 4G/LTE yet.

Digicel is the only provider that doesn't offer data roaming without surcharges in the Dutch part of Sint Maarten. Free roaming only includes Digicel in Guadeloupe, Martinique, the French side of St. Martin and French Guiana, not anywhere else on the many Digicel networks in the Caribbean.

Availability Edit

Their prepaid SIM card is also called La Carte and sold for 15 € in their shops (locator). It comes with 5 € credit, 20 domestic SMS and 100 MB data valid for 10 days. Another 10 € are given as welcome credit when you top-up at least 10 € during 30 days past activation. Two different plans are offered: Classique and Extra that doesn't make a difference for data.

You can top-up online using a credit card or by voucher of 5, 10, 20, 40 € giving 6 to 90 days of validity. To top-up by voucher, type *133*<PIN code>#, to check balance, type *133#.

Data rates Edit

Though Digicel has a default rate even higher than Orange's at 1.50 € per MB, they offer data packages called Recharges Internet. You should try to avoid the default rate at any cost and book packages instead:

  • 100 MB for 7 days: 2 €
  • 500 MB for 20 days: 10 €
  • 1 GB for 45 days: 20 €
  • 3 GB for 60 days: 40 €

Activation is by *123# and watch out: overuse is at the very high default rate.

More info Edit

La Poste Caraïbes Mobile Edit

Poste mobile

Poste Mobile is the first MVNO operating in all islands. It's distributed by the postal offices and uses the network of Orange with good coverage in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.

Availability Edit

Their prepaid SIM card is sold in post offices and other stores for 9.90 €. It contains 5 € starter credit for 15 days. Up to 24 hours after starting up, you need to call 555 for a pre-registration to avoid being suspended. Then you have another 15 days to send them the activation form and a copy of your passport to get 10 € bonus credit. If you don't comply, the line will be suspended.

Top-ups Edit

You can buy top-ups in post offices or use any Orange top-up sold elsewhere starting at 5 €. Standard data is at high 0.01 € per 10 KB (= 1 € per MB). They offer data only for recharges:

  • 200 MB for 5 days: 5 €
  • 500 MB for 10 days: 10 €
  • 1 GB for 20 days: 20 €

But here is a catch: You can only top-up these "recharges Internet mobile" online or dialling #124#. You need a French Carte bancaire. It's not known, if and which foreign bank cards work. So only use it as an option, when you have someone at hand who has a French-issued bank card.

More info Edit

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