I wanted to check my bank account one day but the Internet at the hostel I was staying at wasn’t working. Then I saw a guy using his laptop in the dining area and I asked him if he was able to pick up a Wi-Fi signal. He told me he’s using one of these Tigo USB modems to get Internet connection.
Tigo is a mobile phone service provider and appears to be the main provider here in Guatemala. You’ll see their logo everywhere when you walk around any town. You can purchase a USB modem for 175 quetzales ($22) and you’ll get free 15 days (8GB limit) after your first plan purchase. The different plans are:
- Q10 ($1.28) for 1 hour with a 200MB limit
- Q25 ($3.20) for 1 day with a 1.5GB limit
- Q75 ($9.60) for 1 week with a 3GB limit
- Q145 ($18.59) for 1 month with a 1GB limit
- Q199 ($25.51) for 1 month with a 3GB limit
- Q299 ($38.33) for 1 month with an 8GB limit
I purchased mine in Panajachel at a Kodak store. There are other places you can get them from, just look for the Tigo logo and ask at the store.
Installation is pretty straightforward. The device has about 32MB of memory which stores the desktop software to configure/manage it. Windows will automatically install the device drivers as soon as you plug it in, then the management software installation wizard will launch.
As far as speed is concerned, the fastest download speed I’ve gotten so far was just over 1.6 Mbps over an HSDPA data network, which is very good. HSDPA is also known as 3.5G and Tigo’s network is supposed to be capped at 3.6 Mbps.
You won’t always be on HSDPA, though. I’ve seen it switch among WCDMA, EDGE, and HSDPA networks. HSDPA has the fastest bandwidth but EDGE or WCDMA aren’t bad either. I’m able to stream Pandora just fine on HSDPA, lags once in a while on EDGE, and haven’t tried it on WCDMA yet.
You can buy prepaid cards with code to load into your account, which you can then use to purchase different plans. You can also do it online and pay using your credit card. Even if you have no more credit left in your account, Tigo will still let you connect to their website (and only their website) so you can purchase more credit.
It comes with a SIM card which you insert inside the USB device. If you have an unlocked GSM mobile phone, you can use this SIM card with it as well. You get your own phone number also. My Dell Streak phone/tablet took the SIM card and showed Tigo as the carrier, but I haven’t tried making a phone call with it yet.
This is really handy to have when traveling as there’s a good chance you’ll end up in places without Internet connection when you need it the most. It’s nice to have as well when you’re on long bus rides and need some entertainment or just want to get some work done that requires an Internet connection.
I really like how they give you so many prepay options so you only pay for what you use/need. If AT&T or Verizon offered similar options back home I probably would’ve gotten one of theirs as well.