Mexico has 3 mobile operators:
- Telcel (owned by América Móvil)
- Movistar (owned by Telefónica)
- AT&T Unidos: Iusacell (incl. Unefon) merging with Nextel
MVNOs are starting up of which Virgin Mobile and Cierto are shown in detail. Aló and weex can't be recommended for reasons given below and Tuenti has been closed in 2016.
Mexico is Carlos Slim country. The telco tycoon has made his fortune here controlling the landline market with Telmex and the mobile market with América Móvil. His mobile provider is not called Claro like anywhere else, but Telcel in Mexico. It has a huge market share of more than 2/3 of the nation's subscribers.
Telcel has the best coverage, but can suffer from congestion. Movistar has been the only viable competitor with a reasonable coverage, while Iusacell and Nextel have very limited coverage at low rates. In 2015 AT&T acquired both Iusacell and Nextel. They are merging these brands to build up a 3rd major provider called AT&T Unidos.
2G and 3G are on 850 and 1900 MHz on all operators except Nextel, while 4G/LTE has started with Telcel, Movistar and Nextel on 1700 MHz (AWS). Nextel has 3G and 4G only, both on 1700 MHz. Telcel covers 65% by LTE, Movistar around 50 towns and Nextel only a few towns.
You can get a prepaid SIM card, which is called chip anywhere in Mexico, from the major operators and their outlets for $150-200 with some credit on it. There is no need to show an ID or give any address, but to be safe, take it with you, when you buy the chip. Top-ups can be made anywhere by top-up cards or direct top-up giving the phone number (in Spanish! or write it down) at the checkout of supermarkets.
Be aware, that to reach a mobile phone from outside of Mexico a 1 must be added before the area code. So it is: +52 1 <area code> <phone number>. This is because mobile phones in Mexico share the same area codes with land line numbers and don't have separate area codes as other countries do.
All prices quoted in '$' in this article are in Mexican Peso (MXN), not US$.
In 2015 AT&T started a price war in North American roaming (in the US and Canada). Now, all three providers offer data, text and call roaming on most plans or packages in all of North America without surcharges. When going north it's now cheaper to keep your Mexican SIM card instead of buying a new one in the US or Canada.
In December 2016 Telcel and Movistar have signed a national roaming agreement. From Dec. 15th, Movistar customers can roam on the much more widespread Telcel network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE where Movistar doesn't have own coverage.
(Jan. 2017) It is near impossible to find Weex SIM card (supposedly best prices of all). If you are visiting Mexico on a short term (<30 days), your best bet is to go to Walmart and get an AT&T SIM card. I ended up with Movistar as I was in a hurry and it was extremely slow. Their roaming agreement with Telcel is for 3G only. All the tech savvy young people I talked to uses AT&T and described Telcel as a "cartel". They also agreed on how slow Movistar is.
Telcel is the top dog in the country (see above). Its prepaid line is called Amigo. It has the best coverage on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE at the highest rates. 4G/LTE is free for prepaid where available. 4G/LTE coverage in 2015 has reached 65.5% of the population: coverage checker.
SIM cards are can be bought from local Telcel dealers and outlets you'll find almost everywhere in the country or here for $149 with $50-75 credit, sometimes better in promotions. Triple-cut SIM cards are available. For 4G/LTE be sure that you get a 4G SIM card. At the airport of Mexico City there is an official Telecel store open from 9am to 7pm. Otherwise, you can walk in one of the many Oxxo convevience stores in the country and buy a chip without any registration.
In Mexico you can recharge at the ubiquitous Oxxo stores throughout the country that all sell top-ups for cash only. You hand over your phone number to the cashier and it’s automatically added to your phone. Amounts of $20-500 are available, all top-ups of $100 have a validity of 60 days. Telcel sends a confirmation by SMS.
Top-ups can be done online on the Telcel website. The official Telcel site accepts Mexican debit/credit cards, some US credit cards, and PayPal (excluding AmEx card on PayPal). You may also use 3rd party agencies like recharge.com or others. Beware that there are scam sites and even established websites charge you about 10% commission. To check balance, type *133#.
Prepaid plans Edit
In 2016 Telcel totally renewed their prepaid plans that are all called AMIGO and now include the US and Canada too. They have now two base plans:
- Telcel Amigo sin límite (without limits)
- Telcel Amigo por segundo (per second)
You can change plans by typing *264. First change is free, further changes are for a $29 fee.
Amigo por segundo Edit
All incoming calls in Mexico, the US and Canada are free. All calls, texts into these countries cost the same. Data cost is the same in Mexico, US and Canada at $0.85 per MB as default rate. Furthermore, they offer heavily reduced calls to Latinamerica from Mexico.
Amigo sin límite Edit
This plan has combo packages that are not only valid in Mexico but in the US and Canada too. They include a data allowance, unlimited calling in and between these countries and social networks too:
All allowances are valid in and between Mexico, the US and Canada. For activation text code to 5050. Packages will not auto-renew. For more data you can add regular data packages. Data outside of these packages are charged at $0.85 per MB in all three countries. To check remaining allowances and validity, type *135#.
Data feature packages Edit
To all Amigo plans these data packages can be added. Rate outside or for overuse is $0.85 per MB in Mexico, the US and Canada:
Note that packages don't auto-renew. Telcel sends a message before all data is used up. Data and social media are valid in Mexico, US and Canada. Except of the 10 MB and 50 MB packages that are only valid in Mexico. WhatsApp is limited to 500 MB in the 50 MB pack and all social media to 1 GB in the larger packages. Facebook's and WhatsApp's VoIP functionality is not included.
More info Edit
- Tethering is available without extra charges
- APN: internet.itelcel.com
- Username: webgprs
- Password: webgprs2002
- Website: http://www.telcel.com (mostly in Spanish)
Movistar was the only real competitor of Telcel in Mexico until AT&T arrived. Although it does not have Telecel's coverage, it gives out data cheaper and suffers from less congestion, as it cares only for 22% of the market: 2G 3G coverage map 4G coverage map.
For 2016 Movistar plans to expand its 4G/LTE network to 23 new markets and 500 rural communities, via the deployment of 1700 new VTS stations including Aguascalientes, Cancun, Cuernavaca, Merida, Torreon, Veracruz and Villahermosa.
In December 2016 Movistar has signed a national roaming agreement with the leading provider Telcel in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE for voice, text and data. This national roaming started in April 2017 with Movistar having much better coverage for 3G in rural areas and 40% more for 4G/LTE without additonal fees to users.
The starter pack called chip prepago can be bought in any Movistar dealer in Mexico, with most airports having one shop locator or many other stores like Walmart. The prepaid SIM card costs $60, sometimes lower in promotions. Top-ups can be made in a lot of stores: Recharges of $10-500 are available giving you 10 to 90 days of validity. Alternatively, you can try topping up online via a 3rd party recharge service.
Prepaid plan Edit
Their current prepaid plan is called Prepago Doble Ilimitado. This means that all top-ups will be doubled in value. It includes unlimited calls and SMS in or to Mexico, the US and Canada, social networks and data roaming in Canada and the US without surcharges.
The validity of this offer depends on the top-up: $10 for 1 day, $20 for 2 days, $30 for 5 days, $50 for 10 days, $100 for 25 days and $150-300 for 30 days.
The data default rate also depends on this top-up: $10-50: $1.25/MB, $100-150: $0.70/MB, $200-250: $0.50/MB and $300: $0.40. These prices also apply to roaming in the US and Canada.
Data feature packs Edit
For data, you can add these regular data packages:
|1 day||30 MB||$ 10||WA||DIA|
|2 days||60 MB||$ 20||WA||2 dias|
|3 days||100 MB||$ 29||WA||3DIAS|
|7 days||200 MB||$ 49||TW, WA||DIAS7|
|15 days||600 MB||$ 99||FB, TW, WA||15 dias|
|30 days||1 GB||$ 149||FB, TW, WA||DIAS30|
|30 days||2 GB||$ 249||FB, TW, WA||3GB|
To activate, either text the code to the 100 or dial *100, choose "navega en internet", pick the pack you want and confirm selection. They will confirm this purchase by a text message.
Allowed apps include Facebook <FB> (without VoIP), Twitter <TW> and Whatsapp <WA> (without VoIP). Overuse is at the default rate.
Furthermore, Movistar offers these combo packages called "illimitado" with allowances that can be used in Mexico, the US and Canada:
- $80: for 20 days: 250 MB in Mexico, 1 GB WA, FB and TW, unlimited calls and text to the US and Canada
- $250: for 30 days: 1.5 GB in Mexico, US, Canada, 1 GB WA, FB and TW, unlimited calling and texting to the US and Canada
- $300: for 30 days: 2 GB in Mexico, US and Canada - rest like the $250 package.
These packages can be booked by typing #100# or *100. Note that the roaming allowances will be alotted with a delay of 24 hrs past purchase.
(Jan. 2017) They have non-advertised promotions. For an example, I paid $100 for 350MB (not shown in chart above) and was given bonus data and ended up with 1.05GB total. This SIM even roams in Canada but not sure for how long or how much is included. Network is extremely slow and I cannot recommend despite good prices.
- APN: internet.movistar.mx
- Username and password: movistar
- Website: http://www.movistar.com.mx in Spanish
AT&T Unidos (Iusacell, Unefon, Nextel) Edit
AT&T, the telco giant from the US, bought Iusacell and Nextel in 2015. It is merging these brands enabling free roaming between their brands, what is called Communidad Extendida. Rebranding has started and will be finished in 2016.
AT&T plans to invest some billion $$ into improving their still rather limited network. In 2017 they have covered the 2/3 of the population in 171 cities by 4G/LTE, and plan to cover 80% by 2018. They have only 9% of all subscribers in 2015, but own 42% of the national bandwidth: AT&T coverage maps.
In 2015 they unified prices and lowered roaming rates by scrapping all surcharges to North America. All three brands are still on the market, but will disappear eventually. For prepaid they now all offer the same AT&T Unidos Prepago rates on all brands.
Iusacell merged with Unefon some years ago. They've operated a hybrid non-compatible CDMA and GSM network, but witched off CDMA in 2016. Their GSM coverage is still much less than Telcel or Movistar: Iusacell Coverage map.
Their SIM cards are available in their stores: Iusacell store locator for $100-150. Top-ups can be made in a lot of supermarkets and banks from $10-1000 giving 15-90 days of validity.
Unefon merged with Iusacell in 2007, but kept its own brand. Back then, it was a CDMA-only operator, not compatible with GSM. Soon they began to migrate from CDMA to GSM thanks to own refarming and a roaming agreement with Iusacell. Their coverage is identical to Iusacell (detailed coverage).
Their SIM card called chip is sold for around $50-150 with $100 credit loaded in Coppel, Elektra, Famsa and Walmart stores. It can be topped up in many stores shown here
Nextel has been the smallest operator in the country. It had a hybrid network with the non-compatible iDEN technology and a 3G/4G network only on GSM without fallback to 2G. So coverage is still worse than the other operators, but can be great, if you use it at one location you have connection. Nextel has focused on triple-play products and has both 3G and 4G only on the AWS frequency of 1700 MHz: Nextel Coverage list. 4G/LTE is open for prepaid. Be sure to have coverage, before you buy a SIM card.
AT&T Unidos Prepago Edit
This the only prepaid plan for all of their three brands. The different allowances depend on the top-up made every month:
|$ 10-20||$0.75/MB||7 days||n/a||n/a|
|$ 30||->||40 MB/mins/SMS|
|$ 50||->||14 days||100 MB/mins/SMS||WhatsApp,
|$ 100||350 MB||28 days||
unlimited calls and texts to all networks in Mexico, the US and Canada
|$ 150||600 MB||30 days|
|$ 200||1.2 GB|
|$ 300||2 GB|
|$ 500||3.5 GB|
|$ 1000||7 GB||60 days|
All non-included data is charged at $0.75 per MB. In the packages of $100 and more, the included minutes, texts and data are valid in all of North America (that's Canada, the US and Mexico) without surcharges. Unlimited Whatsapp and Facebook doesn't include their VoIP functionality.
More Info Edit
- on Iusacell and Unefon:
- on Nextel:
- APN: wap.nexteldata.com.mx /or/ modem.nexteldata.com.mx
- old Website: http://www.nextel.com.mx in Spanish
- on AT&T Unidos:
- new Website in Spanish: http://www.att.com.mx
Virgin Mobile Edit
Virgin Mobile started in 2014 as second MVNO in the country and has grown to its largest. It uses the limited network of Movistar in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (coverage map).
You can order their SIM card online to be sent to an Mexican address or buy it at their sales points (locator: select comprar mi chip). They are sold at $50 with the same credit loaded either as mini/micro or nano size. To activate, you need to register online or at the outlet and make a recharge.
You can top-up online by credit card $10-500 or at the outlets shown on the top-up site like Oxxo, 7-Eleven and many more starting at $20. Check balance by typing *188#.
Data plans Edit
You need to choose combo packs first:
- $ 50: 200 MB, 50 mins, 50 SMS for 15 days
- $ 100: 500 MB, 200 mins, 50 SMS for 30 days
- $ 150: 1 GB, 200 mins, 50 SMS for 30 days
- $ 200: 2 GB, 300 mins, 50 SMS for 30 days
- $ 300: 3 GB, 400 mins, 50 SMS for 30 days
- $ 500: 5 GB, 400 mins, 50 SMS for 30 days
All included voice minutes are to Mexico, the US and Canada too, but no roaming included. Limited WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook use is added to every package. All data outside of these packages are charged at $1 per MB.
More info Edit
- APN: internet.virginmobile.mx
- iOS users need to connect to Internet first to download APN profile at apn.virginmobile.mx
- Website in Spanish: https://www.virginmobile.mx
- The Virgin mobile app is available for Android and iOS users allowing to manage your plans.
Cierto by Ekofon is another MVNO that piggybacks on Movistar's 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE network. It started as first MVNO in the country in 2014 and offers reasonable rates for data.
Top-ups can be made at 20,000 points like 7-Eleven or Walmart or any Movistar reload will do too.
Data feature packages Edit
They offer these packages for data:
- 80 MB for 24 hours: $ 19
- 140 MB for 24 hours: $ 29
- 190 MB for 48 hours: $ 39
- 300 MB for 48 hours: $ 59
- 300 MB for 30 days: $ 50
- 700 MB for 30 days: $ 100
For unlimited WhatsApp (without VoIP) they offer a package for $20 and an unlimited Facebook (without FB Messenger), Twitter and WhatsApp (without VoIP) for $100 valid for 30 days.
To activate bundles you need to log in your account or call *767. Outside data use is charged at $0.98/MB.
More info Edit
- APN: internet.cierto.mx
- Website in Spanish: http://cierto.com.mx
Aló is the first viable MVNO (or rather subsidiary) on the superior network of Telcel in Mexico. It started in 2015 and others are about to follow. Unfortunately, it still doesn't have a good data deal yet, doesn't offer 4G/LTE and therefore be recommended so far.
Their prepaid chip is sold for $29 in Telcel stores and many authorized dealers throughout the country. You can activate it by a top-up of $10 or more. Top-ups can be made in all 7-Eleven stores from $10 to $500 giving 10 to 60 days of validity. To check balance, dial *611.
Data rate Edit
While Aló copies the default rate of Telcel at $0.85 per MB, it doesn't offer any of their data packages. So all data will stay at the high default rate. That's why it can be recommended for data use up to now.
More info Edit
- APN: internet.alo
- Website in Spanish: http://alo.mx/alo.html
weex is a new MVNO that has started in 2016 and piggybacks on the Movistar network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. It's youth-oriented, but accessible to the general public.
All management like booking of packages can only be done through their app available for Android and iOS in Spanish. But they decided for whatever reason to geo-restrict distribution in Google and Apple Stores. As alternative to that, weex also offers maintenance of your connection via weex.mx/webapp , where you need to log in (directly or via facebook).
You can purchase their SIM card for $50 at outlets of 7-Eleven, Oxxo and Circulo K or for $30 online to be delivered to a Mexcian address. It includes $50/$30 and 3 months of free WhatsApp, Line or Telegram when you buy your first bundle. You can top-up your SIM at every of the 40,000 Movistar recharge points in the country as Movistar.
(Jan. 2017) - It is near impossible to find this SIM card. Only realistic way to find one is to have it delivered to a Mexican address. I stopped at multiple Oxxo stores and they only carry Telcel SIM cards. 7/11 and Circle K are non existent in many cities. Even if you were to find one, Movistar network is so congested I think it's worth going with someone else despite its pricing.
Data feature packages Edit
Default rate outside of packages is 0.70 per MB. They have different packages by the week or month:
- weekly packages:
- 50 MB: $ 15
- 100 MB: $ 20
- 250 MB: $ 32
- monthly packages:
- 250 MB: $ 55
- 500 MB: $ 80
- 1 GB: $ 110
Social media Edit
They also offer many different bundles to be used with special apps:
- Facebook (+ Messenger) and WhatsApp (without VoIP) unlimited for 30 days: $ 55
- WhatsApp, Telegram, Line for 1 day $1, 7 days $4 and 30 days $10
- Facebook (+ Messenger incl. texts and pics) for 1 hour $4, 1 day $8, 7 days $20 and 30 days $50
- Facebook (+ Messenger) and Twitter for 3 hours $6 and 1 day $10
- Google Maps, Waze. Ecobici and Uber for 1 hours $2
- Tinder and Grindr for 1 day $6 and 15 days $15
- Twitter for 1 day: $7
- Instagram for 1 day $8 and 7 days $25
- Gmail and Hotmail for 7 days $10
- YouTube for 100 MB in 7 days $14, 250 MB in 30 days $30 and 500 MB in 30 days $56
- Snapchat for 100 MB in 7 days $14, 250 MB in 30 days $28 and 500 MB in 30 days $49
- Spotify for 90 MB in 7 days $13, 240 MB in 30 days $29 and 360 MB in 30 days $38
- Wikipedia and Babylon (translator) for 7 days $3
More info Edit
- APN: internet.weex.mx
- Website in Spanish: http://weex.mx