Complete Guide to Ecuador Travel & Relocation (GringosAbroad)

Internet in Ecuador: 2013 Speed Update

ecuador-internetMany future expats are concerned about how fast the internet is here in Ecuador.

Back in November 2010 is the last time we wrote about internet in Ecuador.

Things have changed over the past 2.5 years.

A lot.

When we first moved here, almost four years ago, the internet connection was very challenging. It was frequently cut – on a daily basis. Now, we go months between internet problems. Last Friday was the first time in more than six months that our TVCable connection was dropped. It has become very reliable.

Other expats in Cuenca still comment about how bad the connection is. The problem probably isn’t with the internet in general. It could be with the provider, router, or even the level of sharing (who else you share with) on your connection.

With TVCable, we have had nearly a flawless connection. And we have multiple devices online almost all the time. Video streaming (Netflix, Hulu and YouTube) works almost perfect.

In this post, I’ll break down specifics about the types and speeds of internet connections here in Ecuador. But first:

What is a Mega? 

Internet speed in Ecuador is ranked as “megas” which is what many of us know as Mbps. For this post, I’ll be referring to the speeds as they are known here: megas.

The post is broken into Cuenca and national internet options. In every area, there are regional internet providers. If you have used them, please share them in the comments below.

Learn how to load balance two connections to create a single, more stable internet connection.

5 Internet Options in Cuenca, Ecuador

TVCable Internet

tvcable-internet-ecuadorGrupo TVCable Certainly one of the biggest providers in the country. TV Cable has offices all over Ecuador (Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Ambato, Ibarra, La Libertad, Loja, Machala, Manta, Portoviejo, Riobamba, Salinas, Tulcán). In addition to internet, they also offer tv cable (as their name would suggest) and telephone connections.

When we last wrote about internet, we had a 1.1 mega connection for $29.90. Their $29.90 connection now provides a speed of 4.1 megas. Almost four times the speed for the exact same price. Not bad.

Current TVCable Internet Speeds

  • 2.6 Megas: $19.90
  • 4.1 Megas: $29.90
  • 5.6 Megas: $39.90
  • 7.1 Megas: $49.90
  • 16.5 Megas: $99.90
  • 19 Megas: $114.90

Taxes (12%) are extra. As are two surcharges: $1.00 for administrative costs (for printing and delivering my invoice. I pay via auto withdraw from my bank) and $0.99 for PC Assistance (I’m not sure what this covers and I don’t think I signed up for this). We currently have the 7.1 mega connection and this costs $58.12 per month with all taxes and fees in. Connections are shared at an 8:1 ratio (known as: nivel de compartición). This is standard across all connections in Ecuador.

What Speed Do We Really Get?

While we are paying for a 7.1 mega connection, we are actually getting an average of more than 14 megas. I checked the speed with SpeedTest.net as I wrote this post and on a Friday night I am getting a 14.94Mbps download speed and 0.93Mbps. For our connection, they guarantee a minimum download speed of 6.1 megas and upload speed of 0.7625 megas (762.5kbps).

Visit: Grupo TVCable

ETAPA Internet

etapa-cuenca-internetETAPA is a municipal owned corporation in Cuenca (Empresa Municipal de Cuenca). It functions alongside CNT (their national counterpart, see below). ETAPA provides internet, telephone, and drinking water in Cuenca. They also manage the Cajas National Park just outside of Cuenca.

Current ETAPA Internet Speeds

  • 1.8 Megas: $19.99
  • 2.4 Megas: $22.99
  • 2.8 Megas: $24.99
  • 3.6 Megas: $29.90
  • 5.0 Megas: $39.90
  • 6.1 Megas: $46.00
  • 8.0 Megas: $64.00
  • 10 Megas: $78.00

There is a $25 install charge which is credited after three months as a customer. Taxes are extra.

Visit etapa.net.ec

PuntoNet Internet

puntonet-ecuador-internetPuntoNet has offices in the major urban areas in Ecuador, including: Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Ambato, Ibarra, La Libertad, Loja, Machala, Manta, Portoviejo, Riobamba, Salinas, Tulcán, Santo Domingo, Quevedo, Latacunga, Babahoyo, Azogues and El Coca.

Current PuntoNet Internet Speeds

  • 1.7 Megas: $19.90
  • 2.2 Megas: $24.90
  • 3 Megas: $29.90
  • 5 Mega: $49.90

What stands out about their offering is that their upload and download speeds are the same. This means if you share files or photos online, this will be a fast connection. Sharing is at 6:1 ratio. Install costs $50 (1-2 computers) or $75 for three computers. They limit connectivity to just 3 computers per connection.

Visit Puntonet.ec

CentroNet Internet

centronet-cuenca-internetAnother option here in Cuenca is Centronet – a branch of CentroSur (the power company). They mount an antenna on your house and it receives a wireless signal that you can then run through your router and share with all your devices in your home.

A number of years ago I used this service and it was good. Their website is not up-to-date but you can contact them through the site. They also have a kiosk at Mall del Rio.

Visit CentroNet

National Internet Options in Ecuador

Many regions have local providers. As far as I know, there are only three national providers: TVCable, PuntoNet (see above) and CNT.

CNT Internet

cnt-ecuador-internetCNT stands for: Corporación Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (National Telecommunications Corporation) and is the government-owned national telecommunications company. They offer telephone (home, business and cell), internet (wired and mobile) and satellite television.

CNT has an agreement with ETAPA (also a government owned company) to not provide service inside of Cuenca. So while they have an office downtown Cuenca, you must live out of the city limits to use them.

Current CNT Internet Speeds

The speeds need to be confirmed. All speeds are not available everywhere. In some areas, they offer a blanket 2 mega connection.

Fast Boy Internet Fijo

  • 2 Megas: $18.00
  • 3 Megas: $24.90
  • 4 Megas: $36.00
  • 6 Megas: $49.90
  • 10 Megas: $60.00
  • 15 Megas: $105.00

Speeds 2-6 megas have an upload speed of 500 Kbps. Speeds of 10-15 megas have an upload speed of 1000 Kbps.

There is an install fee of $50, but this is often waived when installed with the phone line. To use CNT internet, you must first have a phone line with them. The phone line costs around $70 to purchase (you actually own the number) and $6.00 per month plus usage. Be sure to confirm disponibilidad (availability) of phone lines in your area. Just because you are on a main road doesn’t mean you can get a phone line.

Visit cnt.gob.ec

Cesacel

cesacel-rural-ecuador-internetCesacel is a small provider servicing small towns and regions around Cuenca. Towns include Santa Isabel, Girón, Nabón, San Fernando, Azogues and Biblián.

They offer internet via an antenna mounted on your roof. They are a little expensive but nice if there are no other options.

  • 700  Kbps: $18.50
  • 1 Mega: $23.50
  • 1.2 Megas: $28.50
  • 1.4 Megas: $33.50
  • 2 Megas: $50.50

The install fee is around $70. Sharing is at a 6:1 ratio.

Visit Cesacel.net.ec

Mobile Internet Options in Ecuador

There are a number of mobile providers, including Claro, Movistar and CNT. I’ve owned both Claro and Movistar usb modems and they work fine. Not ideal, but for travel or if/when your other connection goes out, they aren’t a bad option. Unless you are only sending an email a few times a week, I don’t recommend these modems as a primary connection.

Free Internet Connections in Ecuador

While they aren’t as common as in Canada or the United States, you can find free internet here. Many of the malls (all of the large ones) and the airports have free internet. There are some restaurants, but this isn’t that common. Your best best is to go to one of the malls and connect there.

Of course, most hotels have free internet as well.

The Bottom Line

Lots of information. Here are my recommendations if you are just arriving in Ecuador.

  • If you are going to live in Cuenca, I recommend TV Cable. They offer the best speed for the price. And they are very stable.
  • If you are going to live outside of Cuenca, you should check out CNT first. If they have a connection available in your area, you should sign up.

While there are other options, there is a reason these are the biggest providers in the country.

What company do you use? Did I miss any? Please share your experiences below.

An article by

Bryan is a journalist, photographer, expat and dad. He writes for Gringos Abroad (Ecuador travel & living) and Blogger Abroad (run an online business abroad). He also enjoys living in Southern Ecuador (South America) with his wife and daughter. Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn. Work with Bryan & Dena

More about: Living in Ecuador

{ 86 comments… add one }

  • Caitlin September 18, 2014, 10:00 am

    Thanks for this article, Bryan. My husband was concerned about the internet in Cuenca, and this article is really helpful to calm our nerves… he is working on starting a software company and will need to be on reliable internet to make Skype/MJ calls and also receive them. So good to hear that everything “works” down there :-) I was telling him, “We’re not moving to the third world, y’know!!” haha. Do you know how difficult/easy it is to set up a VIN for using NetFlix, etc?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines September 18, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Yes, it all just works. We’ve had good success with the internet. You might consider a load balancing router to improve it even more. We’ve found it necessary to avoid the random outages.

      We just watch Netflix without any VPN. We’ve used hola.org but it isn’t necessary.

      Reply
      • Caitlin September 18, 2014, 12:13 pm

        thank you!! some folks in the Expats in Ecuador fb group are saying that TVCable doesn’t work in some parts of Cuenca, like Centro… we really just want to be able to receive calls/voicemail, make calls, send and receive email, without worrying about the internet being so shoddy.
        some of the group members have also said we should pay for two providers! is that necessary?

        Reply
        • Bryan Haines September 18, 2014, 10:37 pm

          If you don’t worry about occasional outages, then you probably don’t need two connections. We have two – and use a load-balancing router to blend them. This means we never lose our connection.

          Reply
  • Miguel September 10, 2014, 8:27 am

    If you’re in Guayaquil or Quito, maybe you can call NetLife. They have a limited offer of 100Mbps up/down fiber for $45/mo if you pay two years in advance. In the future you’ll see more speeds like this in Ecuador for prices like this one.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines September 10, 2014, 12:20 pm

      Sounds amazing. Would love to have speeds like this.

      Reply
      • Miguel September 10, 2014, 12:54 pm

        Yeah, too bad they’re not available in Cuenca. I’d also add Claro to the recommendations for those outside of NetLife’s coverage. I’ve had TVCable, Claro and NetLife, and they’re all good, but when they leave me without connection for a couple of days I just switch. So far Claro has been the one with the most responsive customer service, but I returned to NetLife for the speed. Really, before subscribing to any service you should try to find out which one most of your neighbors are using, and then subscribe to another one. This way you’re not sharing your bandwidth too much.

        Reply
  • Thomas Porter July 9, 2014, 11:51 pm

    You did not mention ETAPA’s Share Ratio . . .

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 10, 2014, 7:07 am

      No, I couldn’t find it. Do you know what it is?

      Reply
  • John July 1, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Has anyone tried OOMA in Ecuador? OOMA says that they work only in Canada and US, just checking. OOMA is like a beefed up Magic Jack.

    Reply
  • Noel June 4, 2014, 8:56 am

    Hi Bryan,

    On the subject of internet, cable tv, phone, etc. For a potential newcomer, such as myself who is looking to retire in Cuenca, what are the requirements for setting up these accounts?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines June 4, 2014, 9:09 am

      When we arrived, we needed a passport and copy of our power bill. I don’t know if this has changed since. Because we have cedulas and a local bank account it is all a little easier.

      Reply
  • Noel Dunn June 3, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    Appreciate your info on the various internet providers and the speeds of the different services. What is the limit on how many Gbs you can download in any month.

    Thanks,

    Noel

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines June 3, 2014, 3:58 pm

      I haven’t come across a limit for wired connections. USB modems have limits as listed on each of the plans. Usually from 500MB to 5GB.

      Reply
  • Percy April 2, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Re GrupoTvCable: Our connection, they guarantee a minimum download speed of 6.1 megas and upload speed of 0.7625 megas (762.5kbps).

    Hi Bryan, I currently have TvCable “Ideal 7.1 Mbs” package 8:1 sharing. I’ve had issues with all their residential packages since we moved here in Jan/14. Today it dropped to .3 Mbs and back up to 2.2 Mbs when direct wired. Techs tell me this is normal. ?? I noticed your comment on a guarantee of 6.1 for your connection. Is this a corporate connection?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines April 6, 2014, 10:33 am

      No, it’s just a standard connection. The guarantee was noted on their site. I just checked and it isn’t there anymore.

      Something to remember is that with a shared connection, you are at the mercy of the usage of the other users on the shared connection. We’ve found the fastest speeds are from early morning until mid afternoon on weekdays. Evenings and weekends (when more residential users are online) the speeds can slow to a crawl.

      Reply
  • Patrick March 3, 2014, 2:06 pm

    My wife is a speech therapist who may volunteer in Puerto Lopez this summer and maybe beyond. She also has an online therapy job that requires at least 1Mbps upload and download, with few if any breaks in service. Do you know who provides the internet service there, and how fast it is?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines March 3, 2014, 2:17 pm

      You should check the CNT site – they offer national coverage as do TV Cable and PuntoNet. Their sites are pretty good for showing where the have service, and what their speeds/costs are. If you are concerned about stability, you should consider load balancing 2 connections.

      Reply
  • Barb February 9, 2014, 10:11 am

    I am planning on volunteering in Santa Cruz, Galapagos, for a few weeks. There are internet cafes there but no internet where I’ll be staying. I do a bit of business online and realize USB modem internet is not great, but I’ll take what I can get. Any ideas as to which cell company works best on Santa Cruz to use with a USB modem? (Also, to make it more complicated, I have a Mac. When I used an internet modem in Colombia (with Movistar), it was a bit complicated to set it up on my Mac but ultimately got it working. Any tips for Macs would be welcome as well!) Gracias!

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines February 11, 2014, 7:08 am

      There are three options: Claro, Movistar and CNT (Alegro). Internet in the Galapagos is not good. I couldn’t get a signal on Santa Cruz (in Puerta Ayora) with my Claro modem on our last trip there. You will probably have a better connection by going to a cafe or other place with public connection. You should wait until you arrive before you buy a modem – I’ve found that most service provides on the mainland (the continent) don’t know what the coverage is there. Now that I’ve said that, I don’t know if there are many places to buy a modem there. If you have an unlocked modem, you could just buy the proper sim card there.

      Reply
  • Flavio December 9, 2013, 5:24 pm

    I moved to Ecuador 4 months ago. I got two connections : a cable one that provides me 5 Mbps down and 0.59 up and a DSL one that provides me 3 down and 0.9 up. It doesn’t not compare to my 50/25 with Verizon Fios in New Jersey BUT to be in a third world county this connections are great. I prefer CABLE over DSL. I had some drops with DSL but never issues with my cable one.

    Reply
  • Reed December 6, 2013, 2:19 pm

    You didn’t mention Loja, the state or the city. I only know of one provider in Loja and one in Vilcabamba. In Loja is Klix-Loja, and in Vilcabamba is Vilcanet. I’d be glad to know if there are others, and if there is any satalite-sourced internet available in southern Ecuador.
    –Reed

    Reply
  • Mark November 28, 2013, 10:19 pm

    How is the internet speed in the Santa Elena Provence Montanita and Olon? What options do I have as far as ISP in these areas?

    Reply
    • Trudy Marshall November 30, 2013, 11:44 am

      Mark, Just an FYI, although CNT offers internet in all the towns up the coast, we have been waiting 3 months to get ours here in Olon. First, there is the issue of availability. They have to continually be upgrading to keep up to demand. Each box can accommodate 6 subscribers, but if all the boxes are full, then it means a wait until the company decides to install a new box.

      In our case, we live on the other side of the main road, and they didn’t even have the telephone cables installed in that area yet. After jumping through every hoop, and talking to the engineer in charge of installations, the process our little neighborhood had to do, was buy a box ($650) and write a petition, including the names of all the people who want either a phone line or internet in our neighborhood. We started that process over a month ago, the box has been installed, and we are still waiting for them to come back, and hook us up.

      The other option is satellite internet, which some people here have and they seem to be happy with it. Upload speeds of course are limited like all satellite internet, but the price is comparable. One neighbor said they pay $80 for unlimited, and use Skype, streaming video, all without problem or interruption. Hope that helps. Good advice is to make sure the internet is already installed before moving in!

      Reply
      • Jakob November 30, 2013, 5:08 pm

        I always carry a prepaid Movistar USB modem with me when on the coast in Manabi. It provides me with a decent backup option which is still necessary if you want 24 hours internet availability. The landline internet source will be down now and then. I can now top up my account at any Pharmacy (for example Cruz Azul) just like a mobile phone to the tune of $3 per 100 MB (the top up used to be more complicated for prepaid modems until recently).

        Reply
  • John Robertson October 28, 2013, 5:05 am

    Here in SE Queensland, Australia we get about 5 mega on ADSL via the copper phone line. It seems that is easily matched in Ecuador? My ideal would be 5 mega or so in a relatively small town by an ocean beach. Is this possible please?

    Thank you for your excellent service!

    Best wishes,

    John Robertson

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 28, 2013, 12:37 pm

      I think you’ll find CNT in most of the small towns along the coast. And their speeds currently go up to 15 megas.

      Reply
    • Trudy Marshall January 4, 2014, 6:03 pm

      Well, after the box was finally installed, we ordered our phone line and our internet package from CNT. It was at that time, that we were informed that outside of the city, only the 2M or 3M pkg is available. That comes with upload of 0.5. We can get higher speed because we run a business, but now it starts to get pricey. He offered us 1:1 M dedicated line at a price of $150/month. For 3:3, it is $270 plus taxes. It was disappointing after all the waiting and working that we didn’t know that the higher packages were not going to be available to us.

      Reply
  • Maria October 3, 2013, 7:56 am

    I have a question about using international servers. Im using 4Mbps thru CNT but my download speed for using an international server went down to 270Kbps. Why is that?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 3, 2013, 4:21 pm

      They all do a sharing – most are 8:1, some are as low as 6:1. This means that you share your connection with 6-8 different households. If you use during the day, your speed should be better. We’ve found that speeds drop at night time.

      Reply
  • Terry Poland August 13, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Can anyone who lives in or near Giron and uses the Internet a lot for business comment on reliability, downtime/outages and consistent speeds? Do they use Cesacel or some other ISP? Cesacel offers 1.5 MB Internet access with 1:1 service for corporate accounts (no other subscribers sharing). How much does that service cost? Is it wireless? Does it work in the rain and fog? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines August 13, 2013, 12:36 pm

      You can contact Cesacel via their email address on their site.

      Reply
  • Donna B. McNicol [@dbmcnicol] August 12, 2013, 11:19 am

    Wondering if something like this, amzn.to/16ad3UQ, would be worth bringing with us? We have a larger one in our RV for the DirecTV box and it’s been a lifesaver for sags/surges (no reboot when the power blips and our main EMS unit flips).

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines August 13, 2013, 7:49 am

      It is worth having one, but you can buy the same thing here. They cost a little more but you won’t have to worry about bringing them in your luggage.

      Reply
    • Jakob August 13, 2013, 10:13 am

      They are useful, but not useful enough to justify the additional weight in the luggage, but then that depends on your packing habit. I just checked in an air conditioning unit at Toronto airport going to Ecuador. I would certainly not be shipping it back and forth.

      Reply
  • ismail fulani May 29, 2013, 1:06 pm

    You guys give great info. Planning on visiting/retireing in the Manta vacinity in spring of 2014. Looking to get my nfl sunday ticket via internet through direct tv with hd, so internet speed will be crucial. Any additional info would be appreciated. Ismail.

    Reply
  • Jeff Stern May 25, 2013, 6:33 pm

    I live in Quito and us TVCable at my office. It’s pretty consistently good, fast, and fine for VOIP, magicjack, Skype, Youtube, whatever. And we have two routers set up to run off the TVCable modem and rarely an issue. They are usually pretty good about coming around if there’s a problem as well

    At home I use CNT, and it’s fine for online gaming, skype, magicjack, just about anything as well, and very rarely a problem. My modem (with wifi built in) went down once and they immediately came and replaced it. That’s the only drawback…you can’t add your own router on to the DSL modem CNT brings you…well, you can, but setting up your router to work with their primitive Huawei boxes, which don’t allow a lot of fiddling, is not very feasible. Still, service works great with 2 ipads, 2 computers, and an iphone all connected at once, Netflix is good too.

    Reply
  • Vic May 20, 2013, 4:57 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the info. We just purchased a finca in Tungurahua province about 30 kilometers from Banos. I need broadband internet access to be able to continue to work from our new home. We are in a fairly remote area (nearest town is Rio Negro, about 3 kilometer) without any nearby internet service. We are considering satellite, but its rather expensive. Any ideas or suggestions?

    thanks again,
    vic

    Reply
  • tineke May 18, 2013, 1:02 pm

    thanks for your great research and contribution! i am still in southern calif deciding either to go to Cuenca or explore Panama as an expat country. I was in Cuenca and loved it! So if and when i would move, i am only interested in reliable internet, Skype, as i have lived w/o TV for 20 yrs. I watch NCIS on my laptop at times. Which service would you recommend for my needs?
    Thank you !

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 1:15 pm

      TVCable is probably the best option. It is stable and fast. You shouldn’t have any trouble with Skype on it.

      Reply
    • tineke May 18, 2013, 3:10 pm

      how many megas would i comfortably need?
      tks, tineke

      Reply
      • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 3:20 pm

        Probably somewhere between 4-7 megas would be sufficient.

        Reply
  • Karen May 18, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Not sure how ETAPA works, but our upload speed was very slow due to some calibration outside the house that was set incorrectly. Surely you have asked ETAPA to check that for you? It took several trips for it all to get worked out.

    Reply
  • Jakob May 18, 2013, 11:34 am

    Sometimes the service outages are caused by expats themselves. A Swiss guy in Manabi was having problems with his internet and called in the service guy. However, the service guy would not arrive for a long time, so our expat started getting mad, went to the communication hub close to his house and cut a few cables thinking that if he created an emergency someone would come out immediately. Turns out that was the internet hub for the entire region, so he took several towns and villages offline at once, a fairly large area… cut me off as well while I was working remotely with a client, so I joined the angry mob to chase him down. He became so unpopular that within a day he packed his stuff and took off. Trust me, you don’t want to cut an angry mob of villagers off Facebook! Bottom line is that by now even remote fishing villages are addicted to Angry Birds.

    Reply
    • Raul Yanez May 20, 2013, 11:46 am

      That sounds like a great story worth publishing.
      some foreigners still have the colonial mentality in the 21st century,but when they arrive with those ideas they find themselves out of touch with reality.
      They should stay home and avoid embarrassment for themselves and their country.

      Reply
  • Karen May 18, 2013, 11:18 am

    We have TVCable and had some initial challenges using SKYPE on the 4.1 speed (actually getting 6.1 with their early 2013 offer). They have come out several times to review the situation and it appears they have it fixed. We have no problems using MagicJack, though if you are typing, the person with whom you are speaking will hear the clicking. The ration of 8:1 means you are one of 8 people on your “party-line” internet service. Your MBPS can vary depending on what the rest of your party-line participants are doing. You mentioned the $.99 fee – it seems to be added automatically to cover equipment you own, sort of an insurance. We called them and opted out of it. FYI – They also came out with another type of insurance that they were going to automatically add to your bill if you did not call to opt out. It was like a very minor life insurance, accident insurance, and other stuff covering your home and family. That would have started showing up on April bills in 2013.

    Reply
  • Bob Cerwin May 18, 2013, 10:50 am

    Bryan,
    What is the relationship, if any, to mb and wifi strength? We have Etapa and a booster in the house along with a secondary access point and it’s totally inadquate

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 11:53 am

      I don’t think there is any relationship. A wicked fast connection and a bad (old, weak) router means frustration. We were using some of the supplied routers and found that even a good connection didn’t create a good network.

      A few months ago, I bought a premium Asus Black Diamond Dual Band Router and it fixed all my network problems. Now the wifi signal reaches to every corner of our house.

      A good router will make the best of whatever connection you have.

      Reply
      • Steven Morrey May 20, 2013, 7:59 pm

        I’m going to add to that comment and say that it’s not so much the router or what you pay for it as what particular wifi “flavor” it’s using and the construction and make up of the house.

        A linksys wrt54gl is an older router (make sure it has the gl because it makes a huge difference), but it can be modified to crank out up to 5 watts. That will provide whole house coverage for any home made in the american style, i.e. sheet rock inside and chicken wire outside.

        It will not work well on a home made of the cinderblock, rebar & concrete with tin roof construction of most ecuadorian viviendas. This is the predominate construction method that I’ve seen in Santa Elena prov & Guayas, but I can’t say as I’ve seen much of the rest of Ecuador to say for sure about all of Ecuador.

        To punch through that you are actually better off using a router, even if it’s a cheaper router as long as it supports “Wireless N”. This uses a different frequency set and can punch through that sort of construction fairly easily. The range is limited but as long as you are within range the house construction doesn’t present much of a challenge for the signal.

        On the other hand, a Wireless N router won’t work on the Gringo style housing because the chicken wire creates a faraday cage that limits signals in both the N and the G ranges, but N seems to suffer the most from it.

        My recommendation is to look at the place you are staying. Bring a laptop with you and see if you can see any of your neighbors wifi signals. Then step inside the house and see if you still see them. If you do then determine if it’s a G or N connection you are seeing and buy the appropriate router.

        Otherwise you can always get a netgear range extender from mi commisarito. They’re spendy, about $50 to $60 a pop and you will probably need a few, but all you do is plug them into the wall, they will then pick up any wifi signal they see and begin working like a repeater for it. I’ve setup 2 entire hotels in Montanita this way and it works well as long as you don’t have little ones fascinated by the flashing lights and blinking buttons :)

        Reply
  • Lollie Hoxie May 18, 2013, 10:48 am

    Bryan,

    We are in Gualaceo. Our internet is WiFi with the company Rapid Red. We have had this service in two locations here and have had no problems at all. Although we have the first level, slowest speed, it works great for downloads and YouTube and fast for loading photos to email to friends and family. We pay $20/mo for ours. These guys are responsive and technically savvy. We’re happy with it!
    Lollie in Gualaceo

    Reply
    • Jakob May 18, 2013, 11:42 am

      I don’t know about the internet, but the hornado is excellent in Gualaceo ;)

      Reply
  • Victoria May 18, 2013, 10:25 am

    We have ETAPA and its horrible. We are sharing with several others from what i am told. The DirestTv is also not stable. It goes out and restarts itself every day at least several times.

    Reply
    • Steven Morrey May 20, 2013, 1:26 pm

      Victoria and anyone else having a problem with spontaneously rebooting equipment.
      Get your equipment onto a proper surge suppressor as soon as possible.

      I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me “why does it just reboot like that?” It’s because electrical current is not stable in this country, it’s full of noise and peaks & valleys. The electricity here is very hard on electronics and the reason your device rebooted spontaneously was because it received too much voltage suddenly. The electrical equivalent of a punch to the face.

      Sadly quality surge suppressors are in short supply in this country, and the things you buy here that look like suppressors have no electronics in them, they’re just splitters for the most part.

      Buy a high quality suppressor from a reputable dealer like newegg.com or one day very soon your equipment will just stop working.

      Reply
      • Jakob May 21, 2013, 7:18 am

        You can get the same brands as in North America in specialized electronics shops the big cities (albeit more expensive in Ecuador), Guayaquil and Quito. Many malls have them. I recommend a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) and surge protection combo if you do not have a laptop that can run on battery for a while. My problem was that it was too heavy to bring in my suitcase, so I paid the premium to one in Guayaquil. Power outages are indeed a daily occurrence.

        Reply
  • Kim May 18, 2013, 10:21 am

    Great info Bryan, you save us time. I won’t have to do my research once I move. Just one question, what is the monthly maximum for downloads in gigabytes or there are none?

    Thanks for you info and saving us time.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 11:44 am

      The wired connections don’t have limits. Mobile usb modems are all based on 100mb, 500mb download limits – depending on the plan you purchase. For this reason, usb modems are expensive. They are really only good for limited use – travel or for a backup.

      Reply
  • Sonia and frank May 18, 2013, 10:17 am

    Hi Brian,
    just read your blog reg internet services in cuenca, we found this very helpfull
    since in Ooctober of this year we will find ourselves residing in cuenca, to get get our retiro de pensionado.
    We enjoy reading your blogs, you get to the point when explaining things.
    Thankk you
    Sonia Frank

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 11:45 am

      Thanks so much! All the best on your plans!

      Reply
  • Steven Morrey May 18, 2013, 10:08 am

    You missed Telconet.
    It’s $121/Mb (no that is not a typo) but its dedicated business class fiber.
    I don’t think that they have residential service, but I could be wrong.

    Also our company Nova Communications is working on a fiber deployment in Santa Elena province that will bring fiber to Montanita, Manglaralto & Olon. $25 for 25Mbs , $50 for 50Mbs and 100Mbs for $75. These are dedicated capacity on fiber capable of 10Gb/s

    Reply
    • Steven Morrey May 18, 2013, 10:14 am

      Almost forgot to mention. I have been consulting with numerous individuals & small businesses that have complained that their internet service would randomly flake out and it wasn’t suitable for realtime applications like VOIP & Gaming.

      CNT has terrible uptime in general, not sure about the cable companies. However it is exacerbated by the fact that many people here use cordless phones in their home that are 2Ghz. These phones are using the same part of the spectrum as your wireless router but emit a more powerful signal. Thus whenever you get a phone call your internet drops.

      My advice is that if you are going to have a wireless router in your home and a cordless phone, spend a little extra and get one of the 5Ghz models if you aren’t living in one of the cinderblock & concrete shanties that are so popular around here. If you do live (or work) in one of the shanties, consider a lower frequency such as an older 900Mhz or even 700Mhz phone since they can punch through the concrete, rebar & cinder block fairly well.

      Reply
      • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 11:57 am

        I don’t know if it can be said that CNT has terrible up-time. It really depends on where you are living. I’ve spoken with some friends who have been CNT for years and they said that over the past year, it has improved considerably. This is in Azuay province. I’m sure that it varies across the country.

        The infrastructure is still developing here – it has improved significantly since we first arrived and I think we’ll continue to see huge improvements in the coming years.

        Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 11:47 am

      Thanks for sharing this info Steven!

      Reply
    • Jakob May 18, 2013, 8:36 pm

      I have used Telconet before in Manabi. Some hotels there seem to be on Telconet (I can tell by tracing the route of my packets). Service has improved greatly over the last 2 years by the way, from daily outages to maybe once a week. Also, VOIP or remote administration of systems around the world is not a problem anymore.

      Reply
  • Malcolm E Reding May 18, 2013, 10:05 am

    I tried and canceled ETAPA for about 6 months and now use TV Cable and I am a happy camper. I have one computer, one IPad and often friend are here with their computers as well. The speed I have is 5.6 and is fast enought for anything I need.

    Reply
  • Charles Leek May 18, 2013, 9:33 am

    Thanks Brian for the update. My family (my wife & 4 children) and I relocate to Cuenca in January. I am a leader of a network of churches in the US and I am starting a Team and Bible Training Center here. Internet was my biggest concern. I first used ETAPA at 10 megas, but their service was very inconsistant. I have now switch to TV Cable at 19 megas and it has been very consistant. I am very pleased with TV Cable.

    Reply
  • Linda Kean May 18, 2013, 9:22 am

    Bryan, I’m wondering why you didn’t mention Direct TV. I heard they have a bundle that includes Internet. Also could you explain what Mobile Internet is?
    Thanks. Linda

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 12:01 pm

      I looked on the DirectTV site and couldn’t find any plans or mention of a banda ancha (high speed) internet plan. If you find it, please share it here.

      Reply
      • Steven Morrey May 18, 2013, 2:53 pm

        DirectTV internet is known as HughesNet in South America. CNT is the major reseller here and the dishes generally have CNT on them.

        There are a few dishes on Mercado Libre for sale right now. Again this service is not available prepago, so make sure you have a bank account in Ecuador if this is what you want.

        Be advised that latency on satellite is terrible, it’s not acceptable for VOIP or anything that needs to be live such as gaming. It will work fine for streaming youtube videos and would probably struggle a bit with netflix. It also has strict limitations on how much you can download and during what times. They won’t cut you off, but they will throttle you. Unless of course you’re a dealer and have a “show room” connection. However none of this is any different than the USA. In fact your USA Directv internet will work the same down here, just call them and ask them which way to point the dish.

        Keep in mind that ecuador is chock full of heavy clouds. This makes getting anything in the wireless data bands going out for more than a mile or so quite a challenge. In fact I think I remember someone on this board mentioning that they had a wireless connection with an antenna on the roof and it would cut out frequently for days. I’ll bet that corresponded with heavy humidity. If they had the same carrier (who interestingly also just runs a tower that is fed by a line from CNT), they would have the same problems as before.

        The signal scattering issue would be the same problem for wireless or satellite. Radar & microwaves bounce off rain drops (check out doppler weather sometime to see what I mean), the more packets that bounce, the less gets through and thus your connection slows or drops. Works great for telling you if it’s going to rain soon though!

        This is not a particular problem to Ecuador, it is true of everything wireless except for LTE which by definition is rather short range. Rain scatter and is one of the reasons Ecuador upgraded from point to point microwave transmissions to fiber optic cabling several years ago.

        You should be aware that MinTel (The ministry of telecommunications) is actively seeking to increase broadband adoption and has a fairly definitive plan. In 5 years Ecuador will probably have better and more stable connections than the USA. It won’t be CNT that provides it though. They have serious infrastructure issues they need to resolve first. Your cable company or Claro, Movistar, Telconet (or if you’re in Montanita area “Nova!”), are the best bets since their infrastructures are engineered to scale with demand.

        Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 12:03 pm

      Mobile internet is really used two ways: on your mobile device (tablet, phone or laptop) with a claro or movistar chip. You can access the internet via the cell network. Or there is a usb modem that allows you to connect your laptop to the same network. Both come either pre-paid or on a plan.

      Reply
  • Kathy Money May 18, 2013, 9:18 am

    Bryan,
    Sounds like the internet has some decent connections and choices, now tell me about the cable TV. What type of TV cable is accessable? Is it all strictly in Spanish and Ecudorian realted or is there excess to US channels too?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 12:04 pm

      Depending on the package you choose, you can access US channels. I understand that DirectTV has lots of American channels. You can also access Hulu or Netflix via the internet.

      Reply
      • David Akins May 18, 2013, 5:23 pm

        Bryan, the only way that we have been able to access Netflix and Hulu is through our VPN, not via regular Ecuadorian internet services.

        Reply
        • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 5:34 pm

          We use Netflix without a VPN. We signed up here and it works fine. I understand that we are getting the Latin American version. We access Hulu via Hola.org which is a type of VPN, but sets up very easy.

          Reply
          • Charles Leek May 18, 2013, 6:48 pm

            You can access US base Netflix, Hulu, Pandora or anything else for $4.99 a month by using http://www.unblock-us.com All you need to do is insert their DNS numbers in your router and the whole house is covered. We have been using it for the last month and a half, and it works great without slowing down your speed like VPN does.

  • David Akins May 18, 2013, 8:38 am

    Good update. I have been frustrated with the Internet these past two years. I have tried ETAPA, Puntonet, Centonet, and am now back to ETAPA. I truly wanted TVCable, but even though we are on Primero De Mayo (near Las Americas), TVCable is not available for 1-1/2 blocks on either side of us. It surrounds us in the back and on both sides, but they have no plans to connect this 3 block stretch in our section of Primero de Mayo. I am experiencing good download speed with ETAPA (about 8 MB on average download), but the upload speed is frustrating (sometimes only .5 MB). This upload speed causes me the most grief because I do a lot of video conferencing with clients in Florida and Georgia. The upload of my voice/video at times is ‘spotty’. If I could resolve my upload problems, life would be much easier.

    Keep up the good writing. I always enjoy it. How is it that we have lived here 2 years and never gotten together????

    Reply
  • Bob May 18, 2013, 8:09 am

    Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for this very timely update. We’re planning on moving to Cuenca in August and will need reliable internet for my wife to continue to telecommute. She will be using Vonage Small Business (2 lines) and voice clarity will be very important as she is on the phone nonstop with clients and colleagues. She will also be using her computer while on the phone. Add a few other computers at the same time (mine, our daughter) and I’m wondering what would be the best speed to get. Don’t want to overpay for speed we won’t use, but would like to have a very comfortable margin.
    We were wondering about having 2 services, CableTV plus another one for backup. Your suggestion of Mobile Internet might be the way to go.
    Thanks for all of your help!
    Bob

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 18, 2013, 8:15 am

      It’s a good idea to have a backup. We have been using a Claro modem. While we don’t use it in the office anymore (the internet isn’t cutting) we do use it when we travel.

      All the best on your move!

      Reply
    • Steven Morrey May 18, 2013, 10:58 am

      Hi Bob,

      Let me give you advanced warning. Claro & Movistar both have terms of service that prohibit VOIP (Skype, Vonage, Magic Jack etc). Although they won’t terminate you for it, they will actively interfere with the packets. Same problem with CNT.

      If you do go voip or anything real time, ensure that you are using the GSM codec and that you use TLS with SRTP. Your provider should know how to set this up for you. It will reduce the effect of packet interference, but it’s not the default setting for most providers because it increases latency a bit. You do get better sound quality with this setup though.

      Another thing that should probably be mentioned, is that without a Cedula and a local ecuadorian bank account, you cannot get any sort of what we would call “utility” grade service here. That means your internet options are limited to pre-paid mobile and whatever you can scrounge up in the way of neighborly wifi access.

      Prepaid mobile broadband is very expensive. Claro & Movistar both have 500MB plans for $20 although there is a promo right now with 300MB for $10. Note that this is the MAX you are allowed to have. You can buy more, but it has to be in “data paquetes” which no reseller seems to know anything about.

      300MB & 500MB may sound like a lot, but a single VOIP call is about 1MB/min and video chatting is about 10MB/min. Also none of the resellers I’ve ever run into know how to recharge a “banda ancha movil”. The only way that works is to hike into an official corporate owned claro or movistar store, put money into the self service machine and then take the receipt to a desk clerk there and tell her to “activate your plan”.

      Just putting money on via a reseller means that you walk away with a confirmation “You have added $20 to your mobile broad band.” Only to find out an hour later that since you didn’t “add it to your plan”, you were being charged the default rate which is $1/MB. It’s not fun when that happens and it never happens at a good time.

      Now one way around the whole “prepago” issue since takes time to get a cedula and a bank account. One solution is to open an account with Citibank and let them know you’ll be in Ecuador for a bit.

      They have branches in Guayaquil, direct branches and those branches will happily give you an “ecuador ready” check/debit card if you tell them you want to make them your home branch now.

      With that you have the bank account aspect out of the way and I’ve found that with the account, most reps are willing to look the other way on the cedula aspect as long as your visa isn’t about to expire.

      Hope that’s helpful and sorry for dominating the thread. I work in communications solutions. Our company specializes in solving communications problems for expats in Ecuador, it’s the reason for our existance. So I get a little excited when I see something I can comment on. :)

      Reply
      • Bob May 18, 2013, 3:37 pm

        Wow, Stephen, this is my lucky day! Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise. The more we know before we get there, the faster we’ll be up and running.

        Reply
      • sing May 18, 2013, 5:54 pm

        thank you so very much for sharing the information regarding Citibank. I also thought that I would be able to bring my Vonage and Magic Jack connections. Is Voip available for phones? (I will be in Guayaquil and Salinas).

        Reply
        • Jakob May 19, 2013, 10:28 am

          I have used my Canadian ATA with CNT and Telconet without any problem in Guayaquil and in Manabi (the ATA is the box where you plug in your regular phone) essentially having my Canadian home phone in Ecuador.

          Reply
      • Jakob May 18, 2013, 8:21 pm

        Stephen, Bob… I use the prepaid 500 MB option for $20 from Movistar as a backup. It’ll take me through the day of emails and customer calls over VOIP when my other internet is down (just don’t do Netflix or the like). The top up (recarga) for the “banda ancha movil” works like for any regular cell phone, I go to a pharmacy and say I want to top up a Movistar mobile number. You see, your modem has a number assigned and you can get it by sending an SMS with the word CEL to either 333 or 666 (I don’t quite remember) from your Movistar banda ancha desktop software. However, once you top up, Movistar customer service has to take notice that this is a banda ancha top up and manually reset your line. Sometimes this takes an hour, sometimes a day or two if you don’t call. That’s why I got the cell phone number of one of the girls working at Movistar customer service at the Terminal Terrestre in Guayaquil. I go to the pharmacy, top up my Banda Ancha number with $20, then I call her and tell her I just topped up and give her my modem number. 5 minutes later I am good to go. This is also how I do my banking in Ecuador from abroad for things I would normally have to walk into a branch for. I call one of the girls behind the counter who knows me directly. Start functioning like an Ecuadorian, it will make your life easier.

        A peculiarity with the Movistar plan is that your unused megas do not roll over. Even if you have, say, 100 MB left, they will reset to 500 MB when you top up and you’ll lose the other 100.

        I have not had any trouble with VOIP by the way, I do high quality video chat through CNT with my family and VOIP with customers in North America through CNT and Movistar (they think I am in North America). No trouble ever, although I do believe that they mess with packet priority and such, even my Canadian internet provider does it (to slow down competition piggybacking on their infrastructure), but it has minimal effect on low bandwidth activities such as VOIP.

        As to the bank account there is a solution for that. Cooperativas will open an account for you just with your passport and their accounts are just as good for bill payments. The rest then depends on whether a provider (cell phone, electricity etc) accepts your passport as ID or demands an Ecuadorian cedula. Be prepared to get into occasional discussions if you don’t have a cedula. But then if you know someone who knows someone… ;)

        Reply
        • Steven Morrey May 19, 2013, 10:59 am

          The Megas not rolling over from month to month is not a unique situation to Movistar or Claro. All the pre-paid mobile broadband plans in the USA are similar, they just have move MBs. As far as getting good quality VOIP, it’s going to vary a lot from carrier to carrier. The most important thing with voip is not downstream speed but upstream. Ideally you should have at least 1MBps up, but you can get away with 512kbps using the right codecs and settings. You can use a TLS/SRTP connection with a high quality, low bandwidth codec such as GSM and it prevents the carrier from interfering with it.

          No one I know uses this as the default except private corporations. It’s resource intensive on the server so as a Voice Over IP provider. As a provider you can only handle 50 simultaneous calls on a server that would otherwise be able to handle 1000 calls, it’s the most expensive way to go as a provider but the call quality is excellent.

          Admittedly a similar effect is achieved by routing all of your traffic over a quality VPN connection.

          I wonder if the fact that everyone sees your connection as being in North America is the result of using a VPN from work or possibly a private provider. I agree that VPNs do solve a lot of issues, they are trivial to setup and fairly easy to manage.

          For those who don’t know, a VPN is a service to tunnel all of your connections over SSL through a provider in your country of choice.

          Not to advertise here, but Nova, the company I work for offers VPN servers located in North America, South America, Europe, Australia & Asia for expats from anywhere. We also offer VOIP and other communications services.

          Reply
          • Jakob May 19, 2013, 2:30 pm

            Steven… I am indeed on VPN most of the time. I VPN to our corporate office and from there I VPN to our customers’ systems around the world. I connect to our corporate phone system using a softphone version of the office phone on my desk in Canada (it even looks and sounds the same). It also has a “low bandwidth” checkbox that works wonders for those conference calls when I am in a remote area and the signal is not so great. Without being a telecommunications engineer maybe it does what you suggest. Customers dial our Canadian office number and dial my desk extension and my phone rings in Ecuador. I use an ATA with an actual/real phone attached to it for my Canadian home phone number. To my friends and business partners it’s as if I had never left North America. Only my manager and HR actually know where I am. Isn’t technology wonderful?

      • Trudy May 19, 2013, 11:15 am

        We came in on a tourist visa only, and both Etapa and TVCable were willing to set up phone service, TV, and internet for us. We had a terrible time with Etapa, and finally TVCable hooked us up. They just used our passport number, and we get billed monthly on our credit card.

        Reply

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