Prices for broadband at home can be higher than the general cost of living in Chile and it often comes bundled with TV and telephone packages. The two biggest operators in Chile with 80% market share are Movistar (formerly Telefònica Chile) and VTR, although there are nearly thirty others (most piggybacking/reselling other companies’ service) with tiny percentage holdings.
Both contractual and prepay mobile options are available, although with restrictions (resident status is required for contracts). Most of the major providers have service kiosks and stores located in towns and cities, especially in and around malls and shopping centres. These may prove a little frustrating to potential customers as customer service reported by expats is almost universally negative.
Instead, whether you need pre-pay or contract, your first point of call to assess your options should be the Internet service providers’ (ISPs) websites. Although they are all in Spanish, they have breakdowns of what each product consists of, so get familiar with technical terms to make sure you’re looking at the correct one for your needs and price range.
Also, reportedly arranging and paying for your Internet service through the website is a lot less hassle and much clearer regarding what documentation and registration terms are necessary.
Permanent residence status is a requirement for contractual Internet plans in Chile, so the following information is of relevance only to those people wishing to relocate permanently.
For the sake of comparison, as of Jan 2013:
- VTR’s Mega 2 plan costs US$29/month for 2MB/s, unlimited usage
- Movistar’s Small plan, costs US$40/month for speeds of between 1-4MB/s
Mobile Internet and 3G services
Some form of Internet at home is an important utility for most expats today. Though Chile does have a growing number of Internet cafes in towns and cities that offer international calling, and WiFi services in libraries and cafes for those looking to get online away from home. These alternatives are ideal for those expats looking to minimise their costs and especially for students, who may find good wireless access at their university campuses and cafes.
A good alternative to contractual plans for people on work visas and similar non-residents is the option of pre-paid 3G based Internet, accessed with a ‘dongle’. That term may not be familiar to everyone, but all it refers to is the device that acts as an antennae for mobile signal to provide Internet to you on the go.
Around the size of a memory stick and also inserted into a USB port, a dongle needs to be loaded with credit just like a pre-pay phone. Dongles can be purchased from physical stores, their websites and some other associated businesses.
Also just like a phone, there is a number associated with the device. You will need this number to top-up/recharge, or ‘recarga’, your mobile Internet. This service is available through the provider’s website, at a range of stores or at ATMs. A week’s worth of browsing will cost roughly US$22 with Movistar or ENTEL.