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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, under French sovereignty in the Carribean and French Guiana in South America. It comprises in detail:

  • 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 (Guyane)
  • the two overseas collectivities of:
    • Saint Martin (French part), [Sint Maarten (Dutch Part)]
    • Saint Barthélemy / St. Baths

They are all French Overseas Departments and Territories (départements et territoires d'outre-mer, DOM-TOM) and thus (unlike the other former colonies in the Carribean) attached to the EU. In these mentioned areas the same three operators are present, each forming one network. That's why they are gathered to one article.

Operators Edit

  • Orange Caraïbe in all islands
  • SFR Caraïbe (formerly Outremer Télécom/Only) in French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe
  • Digicel in all islands
  • Dauphin Telecom only in the islands of St.Barths (St.Barthélemy) and St.Martin (St.Maarten)
  • Chippie (by UTS) only in the islands of St.Barths (St.Barthélemy) and St.Martin (St.Maarten)
  • [Free mobile - announced to start in 2017 on 4G/LTE in all islands]

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. Free mobile from France will enter the market soon with a 4G/LTE network on all islands promising lower prices.

Coverage ranges from excellent in Martinique and Guadeloupe to only few areas covered along the coast in Guiana.

Users of the Carribean networks can use their respective network in all territories mentioned above without roaming surcharges. Orange, Dauphin, Chippie and Digicel (voice only for prepaid) offer free roaming on the Dutch side of St. Maarten as well as the small islands of Statia and Saba (which are covered by the same networks as the Dutch side). Chippie also has free roaming in St. Kitts and Nevis, Curacao, Bonaire and Suriname.

Even if the two major operators of mainland France are active in these areas, European clients of Orange or SFR can't use their Carribean counterparts without additional fees. But some reduced rates are given out for their French contract customers. Rates for their prepaid clients from the French mainland are mostly at the EU cap (see below).

Data rates in the French West Indies range from excessively high at Orange and slightly lower at SFR to still above average at Digicel 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. But for this you are required to hold a local or French bank card and/or account.

EU Legislation Edit

These areas are considered to be ultraperiferic parts of the EU. So the EU/EEA roaming regulations apply, if you are holding a SIM card issued in an EU country. This limits data rates to the EU cap of 20ct per MB plus taxes (see European Union chapter for details) for roaming on these SIM cards. Given the high prices for data in the French West Indies, you may think of using your home EU-issued SIM card on roaming or pick a cheap EU roaming SIM instead of a local SIM. Always check if the Carribean is really included within the offered roaming options. At least Guadeloupe and Martinique must be mentioned specifially as roaming destinations.

Given the announced abolition of most roaming fees within the EU/EEA in 2016/7, this option may prove to be the cheaper alternative in the upcoming years. In the meantime, we must live with these local prepaid data rates below.

Orange Caraïbe Edit

Orange UK

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

In December 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 same high data rate of 1€ per MB!

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 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

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 the same Recharges Internet (see above) for more data.

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: (2G 3G 4G coverage maps - for other islands change country).

In December 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 is 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 SIM card is sold for 15 € including 200 MB valid for 30 days. Two monthly packages are offered for prepaid:

  • 1 GB: 14.99 €
  • 2 GB: 24.99 €

You can also add regular recharge cards to the Carré in 5 € increments giving 250 MB each and 15 days of validty.

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 a pretty good 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.

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 Pass Internet 3G+. You should try to avoid the default rate at any cost and book packages instead:

  • 100 MB for 5 days: 3 €
  • 250 MB for 10 days: 5 €
  • 500 MB for 30 days: 10 €
  • 1 GB for 30 days: 15 €

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

More info Edit

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