top of page

History & tips for Telecommunication during travel | Digicel Vs flow

When Jamaica first got quipped with mobile phones it was a life changing moment to many locals and to the society. Jamaicans living rural areas no longer rely on collect phone calls and expensive calling cards to initiate the connections between their friends and relatives living abroad.

For many Jamaicans without access to a regular or reliable phone service prior to 1991, the mobile phone is viewed as a real blessing, offering an accessible ability to communicate with people abroad (friends and family a part of daily life.

History of Jamaica Telecommunication

Sooner or later the mobile phone becomes a lens for understanding the reality of many Jamaicans living in rural areas and depending on their families and friends who live outside the country. Before 1995, communication by telephone with family and friends living in Jamaica and abroad was occasional due to the expense and convenience associated with calls. In 1994, relatives living abroad were almost exclusively responsible for maintaining telephone contact since many rural Jamaicans did not possess telephones or easy access to business families with telephone lines.

In most cases few private person\offices had phone line in each community, and everyone from the area where use to do turns and make calls to their relatives on the same phone. This crated many complained that the content of their conversation almost inevitably seemed to ‘travel’ as many others person here around waiting for their own turn. As a result, most phone calls were rare, brief and sometimes also in an attempt to avoid the risk of local gossip about personal or family business.

In the late 1990s when Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd replaced Telecommunications of Jamaica Ltd and made a concerted effort to bring phone lines to the towns in Jamaica’s rural interior. Individuals who had never before had direct access to a telephone line could now enjoy conversation in the privacy of their own homes and make calls at their convenience.

In the spring of 2001, an Irish telecommunications company named Digicel entered the telecommunications market . Cable and Wireless Jamaica that had introduced mobile phones in the 1990s to the island initially restricted their coverage almost exclusively to major towns and urban centers, but when Digicel enraged, they covered many remoted and rural regions of Jamaica.

Parents who lived out of the island due to work situation could now contact their young children living with relatives in the rural regions of Jamaica, and their children could also initiate calls to them. Many Jamaican will relate to the great anticipation for the weekly call from their father or mother or from a close family member.

The mobile phone has defiantly brought a lot of progress to Jamaica and allowed a more comfortable way for people to main tian relationship, business and more. Although most of the population will have a cell phone, its seems as only half of the population can afford wifi and other internet service.

Before your traveling its impotent to ensure your communication ways as most business places nowadays only offered Wi-Fi if you purchase their product and there are very few places with free Wi-Fi accesses that actually work reliably.

Complete guide for Telecommunication while traveling in Jamaica

Even nowadays there are still many areas on the island that has absolutely the worst reception and are very hard to communicate with. And Wi-Fi is mainly not available for free or you might have to work with a very low low speed on internet.

Most accommodation will offer Wi-Fi but again it doesn’t grantees how fast it will be, so many visitors end up getting a local phone plan (sim card) and by that promise a bit of a better service and data (depending where you are).

Especially if you are planning to traveling in Jamaica for long time its recommended to get you own sim card in one of the local network company. This will significantly improve your ability to communicate with locals and find your way around.

If your travel style is backpacking or just exploring every part of the island, its necessary to have a local sim card that will allow you to contact accommodation spots, tour guide, attraction location and anything else you would do in the island.

The process of buying a sim card at any network will require you to only to have your national ID and your phone with you. Please notice that I recommend to get your passport and not any other ID but you can always try, unfortunately you have to go to the store physically and won’t be able to do this arrangement before and before landing in the island.

Currently there are 2 main competitor companies that do offer different quality service levels.

Digicel Vs Flow

The two main telecommunication competitors are Digicel and Flow (also called Lime). Both company’s works with credit – that means you will have to load your phone with credit for call & massages in order to use. Credit is sold almost everywhere around the island and in any type of store, gas station, side road, and of course official network stores. Its also easier to recognize stores selling credit (also called top up) by the signs outside of the store as you can see in the picture below.

Remember you can only use the same network credit on the network sim card – so done mix between the two. Also to enter the credit you might have to follow instruction on the recipe so keep the receipt until you enter the credit and proof it top up to you phone. Also calling to different network is more expensive then to the network you are on.

Personal recommendation

Based on the type of travel in Jamaica you will be able to see and decided if you actually need local sim card, but if you do, to choose a network can be a bit confusing and I hope that after this article you will have a better idea of the things.

But if you ask for my personal recommendation, I will defiantly go with Digicel and this is why…

Digicel internet service might not be that good and covering all the island, but local phone calls are covered with a significant coverage around the island as well as great 4G coverage around the island.

In addition its also known that Digicel customer service is better quality then Flow.


Established in 2001 was and remined the leading company in the industry. When the company just emerged in the Caribbean Jamaica was the first country to start with, nowadays the island consider the home base of this Caribbean telecommunication company.

Some technical information

· They run a dual CDMA and GSM network. CDMA is on BC1 and only for inbound roaming. (CDMA stands for “Code Division Multiple Access.” GSM stands for “Global System for Mobiles.” They are 2 radio networks used by wireless carriers devices (2G and 3G).

· Their GSM and 2G is on 900 MHz, and 1800 MHz and 3G is on 850 MHz up to DC-HSPA+.

· They started 4G(the broadband capabilities and speed, which introduced data connectivity into the cellular space)/LTE ( LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution” ) on 700 MHz or Band 17 on June 9, 2016.

· On their 2G/3G networks they claim to cover 99% of Jamaicans


· SIM card is around JMD 500-700 in their stores (locator) and other locations.

· Top-ups can be made online by credit card or PayPal, where you can buy plans directly too. Top up In any almost any store island wide.

· Dial *120# to check your account balance & dial *120*9# for your data balance.

· Digicel, is active on social media and offers assistance through that medium to its customers in addition to the traditional means.

· They offer plans including calls and Data, usually social media app’s are included with unlimited use.


FLOW, previously called LIME and operated by Cable & Wireless Communications which is owned by Liberty Global.

Some technical information

· FLOW's 2G network is only on 850 MHz.

· FLOW's 3G network resides on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. Both their 2G & 3G networks are available island wide.

· FLOW started its 4G/LTE in 2016

· FLOW's primary LTE Band, Band 4 (1700 MHz), has less in-building penetration. As a result, it doesn't propagate as far as lower frequencies like 700 MHz on Digicel.


· Their SIM card is sold in their stores (locator) for JMD 500.

· For LTE, you need an LTE-enabled SIM card which is available at any FLOW Store/Kiosk.

· Top-ups can be made online or in top-up kiosks, supermarkets and gas stations all over the island.

To summaries I hope this article helped you to know better the local option when it come to telecommunication networks and choose what will be the best for your travel. Let me know in the comment if you find this article useful.

32 views0 comments


bottom of page