San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

ARESEP Proposes Prepaid Cell Service

Costa Rica is in the technological dark ages in terms of cell phone service, according to the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP), which is suggesting prepaid cell phone service as one way of getting the country on the right track.

“Every inhabitant of the country should have a cell phone at his or her disposal, and that’s why we’re proposing a prepaid system,” said Regulator General Fernando Herrero, according to a statement from ARESEP. Customers who want phones in Costa Rica often have to wait months or even years to obtain a line.

Cell phone users in Costa Rica now pay at the end of each month for the minutes they talked. The prepaid system would allow them to buy a card that allows them to talk for a set number of minutes for 30, 45 or 60 days.

Depending on how much users talk, the service could work out to cost less than the current system. For example, ARESEP estimates that cell phone users pay an average of ¢8,150 ($15.67) per month; under a prepaid system, they would pay only ¢2,500 ($4.80) per month at ¢40 ($0.08) per regular minute, ¢32 ($0.06) per reduced minute and ¢1.7 (less than $0.01) per text message.

Those with limited economic resources as well as tourists are among those who could benefit from this system, since it allows users to stay within their budget and does not require setting up an account, said ARESEP spokeswoman Carolina Mora.

The prepaid system is used around the world, and in other Latin American countries it has made cell phones more accessible and generated revenue.

It would be up to the country’s staterun telecommunications monopoly, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), to switch to this system, Mora said.

The institute is in the process of analyzing how the new system could work here, and public forums will be held around the country on the matter beginning Sept. 11.

Special GSM cell lines would be necessary for the prepaid system, and ICE plans to include some of these lines in the next batch of 300,000 lines it makes available, Mora said.


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