San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica telecom gives prepaid cell phones a trial run

Costa Rica´s state telecommunications company has launched a pilot plan for the long-awaited prepaid cell phone program that will ultimately be extended to non-residents, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said.

The plan is a first step forward from the current monthly-contract-only billing system, which is restricted to card-carrying legal residents, long a hurdle for temporary visitors trying to do business or here.

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) started the plan yesterday, selecting and notifying some 5,000 mobile users for a first phase, which is planned to lead into a full-fledged service in March or April of next year, Adolfo Arias, ICE´s services director, told The Tico Times.

The Public Services Regulatory Authority has agreed on a cost for three prepaid cards: ¢2,500 (U.S. $4.55), ¢5,000 ($9.09) and ¢10,000 ($18.18).

The pilot plan is set to run until January, when ICE will activate a second phase, offering prepaid service to 30,000 people including non-resident visitors, Arias said.

“Phase 3 will be for all customers that want the service, for which we will have a new prepaid platform for up to 2 million accounts and it is expected that this will be in March or April of 2009, and it will no longer be a pilot plan but an official commercial launch,” Arias wrote.

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