Demystifying Telcel’s Banda Ancha (or, how we make the internet stick thing work in Mexico!)

This is reeeeally not going to be interesting to many people… but for the sake of the few that I know it might save some headache, here’s the step by step walk through (complete with screen shots!) of how I get our Telcel Banda Ancha to work.

Step 1: Know your phone number

This might sound strange, but today when I went to get our Banda Ancha working again (since we’re leaving the land of wi-fi and joining that strange place we hear about called “the anchorage” on Saturday!!), I realized that I was stuck at step one — I didn’t know our phone number. When you buy your Banda Ancha you get a little sim card and if you’re smart you write down the phone number that’s associated with it… but I hadn’t, so I had to head to the Telcel store.

The interesting thing about this was that at the Telcel store I discovered something new about SIM cards here — if you don’t use them (ie add money to your account) for 6 months, your SIM chip expires. Since the last time I used ours was 7 months ago, I had to buy a new SIM (125 pesos = $10).

Once you’ve got your phone number, plug in your Banda Ancha and go to www.telcel.com. If you’re doing this for the very first time, you’ll need a wifi connection — otherwise if you have some credit on your account, you’ll be able to get there on the Banda Ancha connection.

When you get there, click on “Mi Telcel” (right hand side)

Mi Telcel - Banda Ancha account recharging

This will take you to a page that looks like this and says “Registrate en Mi Telcel” — this is basically where you will sign up for a Telcel account. Once you have a Telcel account (ie a password that goes with your phone number) you can add funds to your account by credit card, purchase internet packages, etc:

Registering your phone number with Telcel - to get a clave (pin) to create an account

This is where you need to know your phone number! Enter it here, and then click on the “Enviar” button. This is going to send a text message to your Banda Ancha program. I know this program looks different on PCs, but here’s what it looks like on my mac:

By clicking on the “SMS” tab, I can see my text messages. Lo and behold, Telcel has texted me! And they have sent me my “clave” (pin) which is what I need for the Telcel website. In my case, it was “0900”. Make note of this number, and then go enter it in the Telcel site where it now says “Clave”:

Now that you have proven that this phone number really is yours, you need to create your account. Basically you fill in your info, create a “Contrasena” (password — which must contain at least 7 letters and one number) and away you go. This new password is what you will use in the future to login to your Telcel account — which will make future re-charges much easier and faster!!

Make sure you un-check the box though or you’ll get Telcel’s junk emails and promotions.

Success! And we get this nice little message that tells us our Telcel account creation has been successful. Now click on that link and “Ir a Mi Telcel” where we can move on to Step 2 of this lovely process 🙂

Step 2: Add some money to your account!

Welcome to “Mi Telcel”! If you already have credit on your account (as I did) then your balance will show up on your account page:

Mi Telcel home page showing account balance

So, a few quick things about this page. We’ve got the account balance, which is called “Saldo Amigo”, of 550 pesos. We’ve got our cell number (mine is that 622 number) and we’ve got this big button that says “Recarga Saldo”. That’s what we want to click on now to add some funds to our account. Note that if you already have funds, you can skip to Step 3.

So first I’m going to choose the type of payment (“Una Vez” in this case, since I don’t want to sign up for a monthly contract), my phone number, and the amount (in pesos) that I would like to add to my account. The account will keep track of what amount I pay for and use, so if I buy lots of credit now and then only sign up for a small internet package, I will have a credit on my account.

Next I’m going to enter my credit card information, and this step can be a little fussy. In the past I’ve had issues with my Canadian credit card, and have had to use Jon’s American one. I think the problems usually stem from the address not matching up exactly, but I tried a few different postal codes and finally made up some numbers for that line, and my card went through fine.

To save myself the trouble of entering my credit card info again (and because I’m one of those people that trusts the internet ;)) I’m clicking on the button above “Deseo garder los datos…” so that Mi Telcel will remember my credit card info, and I won’t have to enter it all again in the future. You don’t have to do this.

Okay, I get a happy little message that says I’ve successfully added credit to my account, and I’m ready to move on to Step 3!!

Step 3: Give me internet baby!!

Finally, we’re getting down to the good stuff. Money in the account, Telcel account created, we’re ready to buy an internet package. Go back to “Inicio” and click on “Internet Telcel” (either link will work):

At this point you need to decide two things: how much internet (in GB or MB) do you need, and how long do you need it for? In my case I need a lot of internet for work, and I need it for as long as possible — so I’ll choose the 3 GB package that is good for 30 days, and costs $399 pesos.

Note that you can buy as small of a package as 100 MB for one hour for 12 pesos — but after one hour, whatever MB of data you haven’t used will disappear.

How many GB of internet do I need?

At this point you have two more decisions to make — do you want your internet to be activated immediately, or at a future date (I chose a future date as we have wifi until Saturday) AND do you want to automatically have Telcel re-purchase this same package when your package expires? I have never done this, as I’m somewhat afraid I won’t know how to turn it off… but you definitely could if you know you want internet for a while and don’t want to go through this process again!

When does your Telcel package start?

Click on “Activar Servicio” and that’s it, you’re done! You’ve got internet!

But let me tell you one last thing… 🙂

I don’t actually fully understand how this works, so if anyone can enlighten me I’d love to learn, but when you purchase Telcel credit (“Saldo Amigo”) through your “Mi Telcel” account, you will also be given “Saldo Regalo” (literally, “gift balance”). One way you’ll know this is Telcel will send you a text message saying it:

Saldo Regalo from Telcel

The interesting thing about this “Regalo” money is that after you internet package expires (in my case, 30 days from Saturday), you can use your “Regalo” balance to browse the internet. The price per MB is higher — and I don’t know exactly what it is — but in general I’ve found that I can get an extra few days of internet out of my “Regalo” money before I’ve burned through it all.

And why is this important? Because it means that once your internet package expires, you can still go online and use your Banda Ancha connection to buy your next internet package — so you’re not stranded needing a wifi connection or Telcel store. Plus free money is always cool 🙂

Phewf… I think that’s it! Hopefully this helps someone somewhere, and if not… it’ll be my reminder of how to do it next month 🙂


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Comments

Demystifying Telcel’s Banda Ancha (or, how we make the internet stick thing work in Mexico!) — 45 Comments

    • I’m glad you found it! haha It’s a pain in the butt the first time you go through the process, but pretty painless after that 😀
      And the ‘cute factor’ has been seriously diminished since your littlies left yesterday…!! 🙂

  1. Pingback: My Telcel Amigo SIM Card Died.

  2. WOW. We are impressed! We have used the Banda Ancha for a few years, always taking ourselves into the TelCel place here in quaint little Loreto (Baja Calif. Sur) to re-up our service. As I am sitting here on our home, our boat, at an island anchorage in the Sea of Cortez and looking up some important info, the TelCel guys send me a text message telling me we have used up all of our 3G. OOOPS. My hubby, Martin, is an internet fanatic, and he couldn’t possibly wait until we go back into shore…… While attempting to find some way to find out if we could even re-activate online, we stumbled upon this website. WOW. It even made sense. It even worked. WOW.
    For those who have spent time living in Mx, a grand place to live, you KNOW how frustrating it is when trying to make something work here….. May your winds be at your back and may you have smooth seas,
    Robin on The Cat’s Meow

    • Hi Robin,

      SO glad to hear this was helpful for you!! We spent ages scratching our heads over darn Banda Ancha issues last year, not to mention trying to help others with their problems, so I really wanted to just sort it all out once and for all! The only problem that seems to still crop up is issues with credit cards that are under two names (ie when couples have joint cards), so if you figure anything out there let me know 😀

      Happy sailing & happy 3G-surfing!

      Leah

  3. Thank You!!! This has been incredibly helpful. We sail the Baja area in the Spring and Fall and I have been wanting to access our email account and the internet generally. Now I can. Our ham radio and Pactor 3 are great for limited emails but now I can access the Internet as well.

    Alice
    s/v Puffin

  4. Greeat info thanks. The problem I have is that my account keeps expiring. I paid for 3G for 30 days and after 1 day my internet expired. The people on the phone said I used up all of my credit which I don’t understand bcuz how can I use up 30 days of internet in 1 day? So I bought another internet from telcel for 1 day, it expired. In an hour and I bought another one for 2 days that expired in less than an hour! I don’t understand. Please help me.

    • Hi Magdalena,
      I’m not sure if I can answer your question or not, but my guess would be that you are using up the DATA of your plan (not the amount of time — like a month, or a day — but the amount of Megabytes or Gigabytes that you bought). If you are streaming videos or downloading big files, for example, it would be pretty easy to use a few gigabytes of data relatively quickly. I know the 1 day plans are really small (like 10 MB?) so they’re not hard to burn through quickly either! Banda Ancha’s are good for basic internet stuff — web pages, email, etc — but they’re not a good solution for streaming anything. Hope that helps a little bit!!

  5. have you or anyone noticed that telcel is throttling throughput, at least in the Vallarta area? downloads limited to about 6 megs, Skype garbled?

  6. I’m presently in Vallarta and haven’t noticed any throttling.

    I was told at the Telcel office here that my 30 day Amigo plan completely vanishes after the 30 days plus the “gift” days. In other words, I was told I needed to buy a new SIM card, which is a bit of a mess since my spanish is minimal, then add a new Amigo plan to the new SIM card.

    Can anyone confirm this?

    I’m using a Verizon iPhone on a US plan.

    Thanks

    • You don’t need a new sim card — just new credit on the sim. Your sim card only expires if you don’t add credit for 6 months — otherwise you’re good to keep using the same sim! Hope that helps 🙂

  7. My 30 day Amigo plan expires on January 12. If I buy today (January 3) the alto2 data package of 300mb of data for 2 days (presently 79 pesos), does all my remaining data (here 489mb) get added to the 300mb I just purchased, so that I have available data of 789mb? Does my alto2 plan start today or can I have it auto-start when the 489mb runs out? What I’m hoping happens is that the alto2 days get added to the present plan along with the alto2 data so that I have 789mb of data that is available until January 14.

    Lastly, if my Saldo Amigo balance is 79 pesos or more when I go to purchase the alto2 plan, I assume no credit card is needed and I can’t use any part of my Saldo Regalo balance to purchase any data plan.

    Thanks

    • Hi again! Hopefully I can clear this up a little for you…

      First, data does not roll over, at all. So if you buy today, your original data package will still expire on whatever date it was originally set to expire. For example, if you bought it December 15th and it was good for a month, it will expire on January 15th no matter what you do.

      Second, you have the option to set your new package to start today OR any date in the future. There’s a screenshot of this option in the post above. I’m not sure how hard that will be to explain in person, but if you renew online it’s really easy to set a future date!

      And lastly, you are correct, if your Amigo balance is 79 pesos and you’re buying a plan that costs less than 79 pesos, you don’t need your credit card again. Saldo Regalo (“gift balance”) can only be used to purchase data on a per-use basis… which is really great if your regular package runs out, because it will often give you enough “gift money” to get online and renew your Telcel package again. Or send one last email, or whatever you need!

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Leah

  8. How strange is that? I Google how to use Banda Ancha, and find a sailing blog (not odd) belonging to Brio. We (Varuna, Pearson 36 cutter) are in Marina Chiapas, returning to Mexico after some time in the Caribbean. In the next slip is Brio, which I see is a Northwest 33. She looks fine. We’ll be moving on as soon as the Tehauntepec allows, but what a coincidence! Thanks for the tutorial. In 2011, I learned to take my sim out of the dongle, put it in my phone, and update using “amigo cards” and text messaging. Much easier!

    • Hi Mitch,

      That IS a small world story!! Good to know Brio’s looking okay, and glad to hear the Banda Ancha article was helpful haha! I tried doing the text message updates last year, and I could never get it to work… you must have the magic touch! Share your secrets if you have time 🙂

      We’re arriving in Chiapas on Thursday, so maybe we’ll catch you before you guys leave… if not, have a great crossing!!

      Leah

  9. Leah, thanks for this refresher. The Telcel site is hard to understand without translation. The time you took to explain this process with screen shots has helped many cruisers. Thanks. June and Dennis

  10. very helpful. I was charged $200 for 30 days and 1 Gig. My neighbor paid $100 for the same. Are there different plans for 30 days?

    Also, I hook up to the internet and use up 30MB of data received in short order. Any idea what is causing this? FB, mozilla, windows? Something is uploading at a furious pace.

    thx

    hans

    • Hi Hans,

      Glad it’s helping! There are different plans that last different lengths of time and give you different amounts of data — you can see the options when you’re logged in to your Telcel account. If you look at the 3rd screenshot from the bottom (11th from the top) you’ll see the packages with the number of “dias” that they last for listed…

      I don’t think your neighbour’s 1GB is going to last for 30 days (according to the screenshot it is only good for 7 days), but they may have updated their plans since I last bought an internet package!

      And 30 MB of data is really not that much actually — I would suspect anything that’s set to auto-update, like Dropbox accounts or other file-sharing. YouTube is a big data-suck, as is downloading any kind of photos (including emailing photos).

      Hope that helps!! 🙂

      Leah

  11. I had to make 2 attempts at purchasing time on the Telcel site before timing out, but was successful. Reading through this helpful information made the adventure pretty much stress free. A question I have is…when checking email, text messages and imessages when I am connected to wifi free of charge here in Mexico or will it impact my purchased minutes?

  12. I put the chip in my new computer, and it ate 55MB in 4 minutes. Data Received is always huge. What is downloading? Windows? Mozilla? How do I stop it from eating all my months bandwidth?

    I was unable to create an account, as all the screens looked different. I did manage to buy more time with a visa card. My month expired in 11 days with bandwidth still available, but my week will not expire until well into february.

    I guess i’ll bite the bullet and buy 30 days / 3 gigs next time.

    anyone have a clue about the downloading? i searched on google and nothing came up. is there an english speaking email address for support?

    thanks

  13. Thanks so much for this.
    I just wanted to keep track of my balance, but this is so much more.
    About burning the data really fast, I’ve heard that happens if telcel thinks you’re using a celphone. You have to call them and tell them it is for internet. Does anybody have experience with this?

  14. Excellent job on the website and posting!
    Haven’t tried using banda ancha in loreto since last year about this time; both mobile phone and internet w/skype worked fine and justified the cheap price (unlimited, no plan, cancel anytime free 460 pesos/month).
    Bad news is that about march or april 2013 skype no longer worked. Telcel office said it must be my computer which hadn’t changed in a year and a half – and about 30 of my neighbors out here on the east cape outside san jose del cabo.
    Signal amps, antennas, boosters etc. failed to make skype work. i pestered the tech service dolts in TJ and here who could only scratch their butts why skype wouldn’t work from their OWN computers in their offices.
    Looking further it appears Telcel is throttling the speed of the connection like a gocart at an amusement park; call on skype and speed goes down to almost nothing.
    Does anyone else notice this crap when using Telcel banda ancha?
    Only other all mexico coverage out here is movistar. Is anyone using movistar with internet mobile skype out here on east cape?
    Alexanet is a local internet provider out here and works ALL the time with skype; does require rather expensive hardware to get service (600-700 USD).

  15. We have TelMex hard line internet service and sometime during the past 6 months in Puerto Vallarta our Mac computers could no longer stream Slingbox from the US using a web browser. We got a message from the Slingbox site that our connection speed wasn’t high enough, even though we’d been successfully streaming for the prior two years. The Slingplayer for Mac legacy app, which uses one half the bandwidth relative to the browser client, works just fine. So, I’m thinking you are on to something with your throttling observation.

    • So glad it helped! I’m sure the information will become out-dated at some point, but in the meantime it’s good to know that it’s still helping someone out there!!

  16. TO ACTIVATE WITHOUT A WIFI CONNECTION: If your package expires and you don’t have wifi, you can still activate a new package. To do so, you only need to have sufficient balance on your account for the package. Money you deposit at an Oxxo or wherever stays on your account for two months.

    Plug in your stick, and open the Banda Ancha program on your computer. Do not try to connect, if you do, you will be charged data at a much higher rate. Go to Messages. Send a new message to the address 5050 with text matching the package you want to activate, such as alto30, medio15, bajo7, etc. You will shortly get an e-mail verifying the activation with data amount and expiration date & time. Then you can sign in and browse.

    We put money on deposit when we are leaving a place with internet, then when we arrive somewhere with a Banda Ancha signal, we can activate for as long as we will be in range.

    Thank you for the tutorial on creating a Telcel account so I can check my balance. That’s just what I was looking for.

  17. Great post, thanks! Awesome level of detail! Saved me a trip in to town to add data to my plan in person (I use it for my Mac in Ensenada).

    Maybe you know the answer to this: my Internet plan costs $400, but the options to purchase were other denominations (no packets as options on the screen, just different peso amounts). I loaded $500 to be safe (didn’t want to do $200 twice because I’d get twice the fees on my debit card). So my text message says I loaded $500, $400 for regalo. Can I apply the leftover $100 to my next month’s purchase or do I have to use it up along with my regalo by the end of the month? I think not having a $400 option is a way to get people to spend more money than they have to. 😉

    • Hi Patricia!

      Glad the post was helpful — I wasn’t sure how out of date it might be now!

      You can definitely use the leftover 100 for next month’s package — as far as I know your balance is good for 6 months. After 6 months, it expires.

      Hope that helps!!

  18. THANK YOU.

    I’ve been trying to figure out what my saldo regalo is good for and you’ve answered the question in a way that makes sense based on prior account behaviour.

    I can’t believe how confusing TelCel’s pricing and packages are. My Spanish is very good and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Mexicans even find it very muddled and non-intuitive, so the addition of a language barrier makes the system almost impenetrable.

  19. Thank you for posting this-it’s most helpful. Now I just need to get a new sim card for my Banda Ancha. Can I only get this at a TelCel office? We just arrived in Mexico and are travelling for another few days.

    • Hi Nancy — so glad this was helpful! It’s a little old now, but I think most of the info is relatively the same. You can get a SIM at almost any Telcel, or even the little stands that are sometimes in malls or grocery stores. It should cost about 50 pesos (I think). Let me know if that’s not right, and good luck!

  20. It is possible (sometimes) to recharge your account on the Internet after using up all your time. After your time is used up, any subsequent attempts to connect to the Internet will get redirected to mitelcel.com

    The problem is that Telcel moves you to a very low level of bandwidth. I often find it is insufficient for the web pages to work correctly. Sometimes I can get things to work, other times not. I think it depends on how busy that particular cell tower is and how much contention for bandwidth their is. Since you’re in the lowest tier you don’t have much priority. Now in the U.S. the ISP companies would of course recognize that it’s important to provide customers ready to buy with sufficient bandwidth to have the recharge web pages work, but this is Mexico.

  21. HI There = great information.
    How do I access and use my Balance Gift? I have $500 peso in there, and want to use it for internet access on my mobile phone – but it appears to not work for the packages?
    I only have $100 peso in my friend account

    • Hi Mel,

      That’s right — it seems that you can only use that gift balance for additional internet access, not for real purchases (like packages). It basically gives you enough “extra” data / time that you can get online, check emails a few times, and buy yourself another package. Pretty smart of them actually!

      Hope that helps!

      Leah

  22. Thanks for the post! Thanks also on the credit card note, i had to try a combination of zip codes to get it to accept.

    My question: My family is using US iphones with Telcel SIMS (We now live in Mexico). We have the amigo balances fairly high because we use these phones for communication (+1k pesos). We have not bought specific internet package but can still use the internet and recieve data. Do you know if the data usage just takes from the amigo balance (seems to be working fine), or is there an additional benefit to signing up for a specific internet/data package?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Rich,

      Living in Mexico sounds great right now 😉 If you don’t have a specific internet package it will just take from your amigo balance… which is perfect if you don’t plan to use very much data. Eventually you’ll use up your amigo balance (although maybe not very quickly if you’re purchasing large amounts of calling packages), at which point you would need to buy a data package. I was never able to compare the rate for data on amigo vs the rate for data on regalo, so I’m not sure how much of an advantage a package would give you… other than the obvious benefit of a set amount of data!

      Sorry that’s kind of long-winded, but hopefully somewhat helpful… if you learn anything more yourself please comment back here!

  23. Thanks for all the detail; I learned all this the hard way a couple years ago. I now routinely but the 3GB Amigo Alto plan and use the internet as I need.

    We’re in an area with lousy cell service on the East Cape, south of Cabo Pulmo, BCS. Please tell me if you know how I can send a text message from my “other” Telcel number, using my iPhone, and get the balance of my Amigo Internet plan, which has its own number. I try to get the balance from the Mitelcel website, but often it doesn’t work, so I call *264 and talk to a rep, but it’s tedious. The rep tried to give me the text recipe, but it was such a poor connection I couldn’t understand her. It started with “vigencia…”

    Gracias,
    Ron

    • Hi Ron!

      Hmm, I’m not entirely sure — but I wonder if you could switch the SIM cards in to your iPhone and then text from there? Would only work if you have an unlocked phone, but I assume you do!

      Let me know if that works 🙂

      Leah

    • You can check how much data capacity is left in your account by sending “VIGENCIAINT” as an SMS message to the same special phone number 5050.

  24. SJ,

    It (vigenciaint to 5050) works; I thought the internet here was down, but it turns out my internet balance is zero. That’s OK, as we’re on our way back to Calif.

    I wonder how it knows to use my internet modem number, as I tested from a different phone. But in past, I’ve xfered money to my modem number via 5050.

    Ron

    Ron

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