Technology, Internet in Nosara, Costa Rica

  • February 5, 2013

Although not directly related to Real Estate – a question we are often asked by potential investors or clients looking for a home, is regarding technology when it comes to internet, telephones, and general connectivity in the area. This post is just a quick overview of what is available in the area. Nosara has come a long way with technology – Just a few years ago, the only company in all of Costa Rica was a single government monopoly – we know how that goes. With the advent of opened markets – Costa Rica is now replete with options for the tech savvy – or more importantly, those who are considering moving to Nosara, Costa Rica full time, who will need to be able to work remotely via Internet and telephone. Here is a full list of what is available for all of your technology needs.

 

Telephones – There are normal land lines in Nosara Costa Rica – These can be had relatively easily, especially because of the addition of a huge switch station in town near the border of Esperanza and Guiones, that was installed in late 2010. Having a local phone is a great idea for any potential home owner, especially if you plan on using it as a rental home. In addition to the land lines – foreigners can also have cell phones – currently you cannot get a contract, montly plan cell phone, but who needs that anyways with the pre-paid options available through Kolbi, Claro, or Movil. In Nosara, the best coverage comes from Kolbi, but that is changing quickly and its just a matter of time before you can choose equally between the three companies. To have an activated cell phone – you will need a GSM capable phone, that can range from anything such as a basic model Nokia or Motorola, up to the newest and best smartphones, iPhones or Samsung Galaxys.(Important Note!!!! -Make sure they are factory unlocked and not attached to a particular US Carrier! The phone must be a world phone, factory unlocked, or jailbroken). To activate the phone, you simple take your passport to the ICE office, and buy a chip that easily installs in your phone. Each chip has a “pin number” that you must be sure to remember, as you will need it each time your phone reboots or is turned on and off. If you are only using the phone for voice, you can put about $20 of credit on the pre-paid chip and it should last you at least a few weeks if not a month. If you are a heavy data user, you would be smart to make sure and try to connect to one of the many wifi spots in town, otherwise you can drain the credits pretty quickly. What happens when you run out? Easy – there are places all over town to “recharge” your phone – as they call it here. Guiones Mart, Delicias Del Mundo Mini-Super, Super Nosara, as well as Banco Costa Rica next to the gas station are all places to buy more credits for your phone. I personally very much enjoy the fact that I can pre-pay for my usage, and then simply buy more credits when I run out. The idea of being locked into a contract with expensive termination clauses, and also to have to pay a monthly fee for minutes that I might never use now seems just ridiculous. Coming from the United States or Canada – this is the norm. Just another one of those small things that living here will open your eyes to. Pre-paid cell phones in Costa Rica are the way to go.

 

Internet – The most common form of Internet in Nosara, is DSL through the phone lines. DSL has some advantages and disadvantages – it is relatively inexpensive, plans start at around $25 per month. You can chose a download connection speed anywhere from 2 Megs/Second up to 10Megs/Second, but although these are the “published” speeds, it seems rare that they are actually achieved. The optimal connection speed is somewhere between 4-6 Megs/Second. Easy installation and low cost are advantages – but the disadvantages are that the connection can be intermittent at times, the download speeds may throttle and slow down during service outages – but the biggest disadvantage is that the DSL in Nosara, Costa Rica is Asynchronous – what does that mean? it means that the upload speed is not the same as the download speed. This can spell trouble for applications that require significant upload speeds, such as Skype or video conferencing. As a backup to a DSL connection, its also a good idea to get a 3G USB stick – this can plug into any computer, and it gets speeds up to 1 Meg/Second. Not a great connection speed, but fast enough to browse the Internet and also check email. Its a way to ensure that even if your DSL goes down, you will still have Internet access. Namaste Oasis Fractional Ownership has both DSL and a backup 3G Wireless network installed, for this very purpose.

 

The best option for Internet in Nosara, Costa Rica, is also the most expensive, but if you run a business or need real high speed internet – there is a clear winner – American Data Networks provides true 4G coverage to the Nosara area. They install a small (about 3 feet high) antennae on top of your home or on your property, that has line of sight to their service towers, some that can be up to 20 km away. The connection speeds for this 4G service start at a basic package of 1 Meg/Second but go all the way up to a full 156 Meg/Second line. Now, 156 Meg/Sec line is absolutely ridiculous, but if you are doing very data intensive work, such trading or monitoring financial markets, who knows – you might need it. Regardless, there are the more palatable 4-10Meg/Sec packages, and the best part – This  service is synchronous – meaning you have equal upload and download speeds. Sometimes you will actually get download speeds way higher than what you are guaranteed, with the upload speed inline. I current am running a 3Meg/Sec connection, and get download speeds up to 10Meg/Sec with upload speeds consistently at 3 Meg/Second.

More information on true 4G wireless Internet service can be found at www.data.cr . They have all sorts of cool options – including solar panel battery backups to ensure that even if/when the power goes out, you still have an Internet connection. This is the best technology solution in Nosara, Costa Rica. Highly recommended by yours truly and the Nosara Real Estate Report.

 

Now besides needing Internet and telephone for work – there are a couple of cool other things you can do with technology here. For instance – if you have an iphone or smartphone, install a VOIP app such as Skype or Magic Jack – When you are within wifi range or have a clear cell phone signal- your phone will act as an pseudo-American phone, where you can have a phone number of your choice, from any location/area code in the US, that rings through to you in Costa Rica. One other huge advantage of having CR cell service with data – you can also make and take calls via VOIP app on a smartphone through the cell phone network here – something that is completely banned and made illegal by the phone companies in the US. They want you to only be able to use your plan minutes. If you have good cell phone coverage, and a smartphone with Skype or Magic Jack app – you can essentially also have a “US” cell phone in Costa Rica – it works through the data network, and once properly setup, is a great solution. This means that anyone from a US phone can call you without having long distance charges, and they can reach you on something that looks like a phone number in the United States – while you are actually in Costa Rica.

 

What other cool technology tricks are there for living in Nosara, Costa Rica? What about TV? There is no cable TV in Nosara, but there is SKY TV, a satellite provide. Well, even though there is no real need for it – the SKY TV programming is not very good. One or two english channels – not enough to even go channel surfing (why would you anyways when you can go REAL surfing?!). But as always, sometimes you want to settle down and watch a movie at night, or maybe catch a few sitcoms. There are some great solutions for this. Apple TV or ROKU, or Netflix. Something else that many people seem to like here in Nosara, is to use Slingbox. Slingbox is a piece of hardware that you can install in your home in the United States – and then access via the internet in Costa Rica. You will need at least a 3-4 Meg connection to get any high quality video feeds – but it will also work with something as basic as 1Meg (you can actually use Slingbox on a 3G USB connection, the slowest option for internet in the area).

 

Anyhow – the sky is the limit here. Amazing how technology can change the landscape of an area both literally and figuratively. More and more cell phone towers are popping up – and ICE is planning their own 4G network to be fully functionally sometime in 2014. Its only going to keep improving.

 

One last note – relating to Real Estate, as this site is supposed to be dedicated to. What is the real importance of technology when it comes to real estate in Nosara Costa Rica? Well –  I like to compare it to the 1950’s in the United States. Prior to this – the huge majority of Americans lived in or just around the major cities and metropolitan areas. The rest of the country were farmers, etc – But then came highways, pavement, interstates, toll booths, etc. All of these road systems allowed people to live further and further from their place of work, and that was the start of the evolution of suburbia. The interstate and highway systems allowed citizens to live where they wanted while still being able to work and support their families, earning a living. It enabled huge development and growth in areas that up until that time, could never have been thought of as a viable place to live. This is very much in parallel to Nosara. Technology here has really turned a corner – in the sense that just a few years ago, if you wanted to rely on technology in order to work remotely full time – it was a pretty risky situation. These days – you can have 99.97 % Internet up-time with speeds faster than a T1 line. Instead of pavement highways – Costa Rica has very much advanced with information highways – enabling more and more people to move here full time and work remotely via internet. This growth in technology will only continue to add to the residential development and expansion of the real estate market in Nosara. Thinking back, that just a few years ago, you could barely get a land line, and that you had to wait for a couple of years to get an Internet DSL connection, seems almost impossible! Going back to the 1980’s, there was only 1 phone in town, a pay phone at the Gilded Iguana(its still there, if you want to go looking for it!), where you had to wait in line each night for your turn to put coins in the box in order to communicate with the outside world. Technology and telecommunications have come a long way in a very short period of time – it will be interesting to see how the advances in technology shapes the future of this town to come.