16 January 2008 | Prickly Bay
The wifi service in Prickly bay works but just barely. I think one of the main problems is Grenada in general. The islands pipes to the outside just can't handle the load. I am lead to believe this by the general online savvy nature of the residents and that fact that at 3AM things seem just fine. During the day and especially after school/work hours it is almost impossible to get things done online.
I needed to make some important phone calls and didn't want to use a spotty Skype connection so I got out our Inmarsat BGan. We have used it for test calls before but this was the first time we used it in earnest. There is a bit of a satellite delay but the calls are crystal clear, noticeably better than the Irridium phones I have used. You do have to set it up but it stays connected even as the boat rolls and swings as long as the arc is not too extreme. I have never had a call dropped thus far.
Cell phones are fine in the Caribbean if you plan to stay in one place. If you travel, almost none of the providers can give you local service on more than one island. You need a GSM phone and you will need to buy a new SIMM every time you hit a new island and your phone will not work off shore. This gives you a new number every island and requires a bit of leg work as you trek to the BMobile or what have you each new landfall.
Calls are $1 a minute on the BGAN but compared to some cell phone bills I've had in the islands this is a bargain. Cell phones are cheap for local calls but calling from the British Virgin Islands to the USVI cost me $3 a minute! A $1 tariff for the BVI, $1 for the USVI and $1 for the call, each minute. While not as cheap as Skype, at least you know what you will be charged when you make a call with the BGAN, and though it is high it is not crazy. It also saves you having to run around trying to find a new carrier each island.
I still think that an Irridium hand held is a better emergency tool however. The BGan lets you browse the internet at 384K up and down with your PC and all of that but you still have to set it up and it is not ruggedized like an Irridium phone. I wouldn't want to have to throw a BGan in a ditch bag or try use it in heavy seas.