I wrote this for Mexidata.info for those that already live in or are thinking about living in Mexico.
Cell Phone Fees Drop for Binational Users near the Border
By Brian Flock
· New Verizon plan fills convenience and affordability hole left vacant for over two years
In April 2008, MexiData.info covered the general affordability of Mexico, with the notable exceptions of telephony, electronics and some energy products. (See article The True Price of Adventure in Paradise, MexiData.info, April 14, 2008.)
The intervening year has only improved the affordability of living in Mexico with substantial reductions in the price of real estate, the rise in the strength of the dollar against the peso, and the reduction of tariffs by Mexico on many Asian imports, including electronics.
Telecommunications packages, including Internet and local (Mexican) telephone services, have also dropped to as low as US$25.00 per month. Then, one week ago, US-based Verizon Wireless introduced their “Nationwide plus Mexico” plan, a new service to help expatriates and frequent travelers enjoy a more convenient and affordable cross-border life.
Prior to the new “Nationwide plus Mexico” plan, expatriates in Mexico were largely limited to hardwired telephones in order to receive or make calls between the US and Mexico. Even Internet services such as Vonage, MagicJack, and Skype generally required hardwired landlines through either the telephone monopoly or, increasingly, over cable networks.
Yet the answer to cell phone mobility has been absent ever since Verizon Wireless abandoned their “North America Choice” plan in early 2007, in response to increasing tariffs by Mexican carriers on cell phone calls in 2006. AT&T – formerly Cingular – had also abandoned their “North America” plan in the fall of 2005. Only a few, long-time expatriates have been fortunate enough to keep those plans, which they would sometimes informally transfer to others since they could not be modified.
In the absence of specialized plans allowing new US consumers to travel freely between the US and Mexico, vacationers and expatriates to Mexico over the past two years have been relegated to exorbitant roaming fees, from about US$0.70 to nearly US$2.00 per minute. Alternatively, they carry both Mexican and US cell phones, or only make and receive calls on landlines.
This complicated the need to stay in touch with friends, family, and business stateside.
Verizon Wireless’ “Nationwide plus Mexico” starts at US$59.99 per month for 450 minutes, or US$94.99 for 1,350 minutes, plus it offers family plans. It treats regular and “Night & Weekend” minutes as being equal on either side of the US/Mexico border. Users of the service will be reachable at their US cell phone numbers on either side of the border, and will be able to make calls to either side of the border. For example, a resident in Rosarito Beach, Baja California would be able to call a shop in Ensenada in addition to calling family members back in the US.
There are a couple of caveats to this new program that will be important to expatriates who spend most of their time in Mexico. Verizon expects customers to use at least half of their minutes from within the US as averaged over a three-month period. Verizon reserves the right to cancel the contract if more than half of the calls originate from or are received within Mexico (likely due to higher Mexican cell phone tariffs). This makes the plan more appropriate for frequent travelers and those residing in the US/Mexico border region. On the other hand, full-time residents in Mexico, who share the plan with others in the US under the “Friends and Family” program, can probably breeze by this limitation.
Additionally, calls to other Verizon Wireless customers while roaming in Mexico do not count as free “Mobile to Mobile” minutes and are taken out of the standard plan minutes. This limitation also applies to calls between “Friends and Family” numbers on the same contract.
Details of the plan and coverage areas are available at http://b2b.vzw.com/productsservices/businesscallingplans/
The affordability of life in Mexico has improved substantially over the past year and this new tool from Verizon Wireless offers a new convenience, particularly for those in the US-Mexico border region of California and Baja California.
Brian Flock is a degreed and certified real estate broker in the region of Rosarito and Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico. As well, he is a member of AMPI Rosarito. He may be contacted at Flock Dream Homes (www.flockdreamhomes.com), email@example.com, or (619) 793-5224.