There have been negative assumptions about the internet in Panama for years now. Now don’t worry, Panama’s internet has improved greatly from the horrible state you imagine over the past years. Rest assured you’ll stay connected online whether you’re just vacationing or planning a big move to the country.
Panama has the fastest average fixed internet speed in entire Central America. It ranks far low at 98th in the world but only because of the generally slow progress of the region’s telecom industry caused by high poverty. Still, Panama has lower poverty levels compared to the other countries Central America, correlating to their higher fixed broadband penetration rates.
Whether you’re just vacationing in Panama or planning a big move there, it’s important to know everything about the country’s internet from its speed, accessibility, and affordability. We’ve prepared the full guide for you so you won’t have to waste time getting inaccurate information from online forums.
What is the Average Internet Speed in Panama?
Did you know that the internet users in Panama back in 2017 was approximately 57.9% of the country’s population, a whopping 69% growth since 2012? The revenue of telecom industries has since soared with broadband services being key sectors of network upgrade investments.
Panama currently has an average of 3.11 Mbps download and 1.66 Mbps upload speeds across mobile, desktop, and tablet devices in different locations and under different internet service providers. Speaking of different locations, here are the average internet speeds in the cities of Panama:
|Province||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|Aguadulce||5.19 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Bocas del Toro||25.49 Mbps||5.57 Mbps|
|Changuinola||50.78 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Chitré||6.61 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Colón||9.79 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|David||25.2 Mbps||5.4 Mbps|
|La Chorrera||17.12 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|La Concepción||17.2 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Panama City||21.57 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Pedregal||27.82 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Penonomé||9.7 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Santiago||14.58 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Soná||21.47 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
|Tocumen||21.34 Mbps||7.96 Mbps|
You read that right, Panama City doesn’t have the fastest average internet speed contrary to popular assumptions. Changuinola is even 42% faster than the capital’s broadband speed, making it the city with the highest average internet speed. Changuinola is located in Bocas del Toro, a province right off the Carribean coast and home to popular beaches in Panama.
Is the Internet Speed in Panama Fast Enough?
Panama is the only North American country whose internet is fix-focused. Fix-focused internet or fixed broadband is high-speed internet that is always on in fixed locations. It is a speedy business internet connection that can reach a speed of up to 1 Gbps.
You can then say that Panama’s internet connection is fast enough. As a matter of fact, it is highly recommended as a perfect location to operate offshore businesses due to its high-speed internet that’s also widely accessible all over the country.
Panama is the only other country aside from the US and Canada to not fall under the speed laggers category. Mexico and all of the Central American countries do, unfortunately. That’s saying a lot about how fast enough Panama’s internet is, and with its continuous speed growth, it’ll only get better in the next few years.
Is the Internet in Panama Reliable?
The speed of the internet in Panama alone is impressive. Add its countrywide accessibility, and you’ve got yourself a truly great connection. Internet service providers in the country also offer competitive speeds and coverage, increasing the internet standards in Panama further.
Panama internet is reliable both in terms of its speed and availability. The installation process of the internet in Panama is also quick and easy. Fixed broadband is connected using advanced terrestrial wireless technology whose signal is sent from transmitters to a receiver mounted on the roof or outdoor wall of the building.
This commonly used internet in Panama reaches even the remotest towns or islands with no stable electricity or infrastructure. You can definitely head out to the peaceful beaches of Panama for the weekend or permanently live there and still stay connected online.
Is There Free Wi-fi in Panama’s Public Spaces?
Panama installed 50 free wi-fi access points all over Panama City in January 2017. It’s a joint project called Smart City, made possible by the Municipality of Panama, Wigo (wireless internet company), and JCDecaux (private multinational corporation). Laptops, smartphones, personal computers, and other devices can connect to these networks.
That initiative is a significant addition to Panama’s internet accessibility. These connections use small signal amplification antennas all over the capital, providing free solid public internet connections. These free wi-fi access points are scattered all over the city’s transportation terminals like bus stops, incentivizing people to use public transportation more.
The public wi-fi service also has some limits to protect minors from accessing inappropriate content. The free networks have restrictions on sites that have mature content, including YouTube other unsuitable video streaming sites.
Here are the bus stops in Panama City that have free wi-fi access:
|Routes and Stations|
|Vía España-Via Israel||Tumba Muerto||Transístmica||Ave. Perú-Ave. Justo Arosemena|
|Parada Estacìón Via Agentina||Parada junto a la Usma||Parada Artes y Oficios||Parada frente al Mache- tazo|
|Parada Multiplaza||Parada junto a Kia Motors||Policlinica CSS Especia- lizada||Parada Estacìón del Metro Lotería|
|Parada Colegio Alberto Einstein||Parada junto a Auto Planet||Punte vehicular Univ. de Panamá||Parada Estacìón Santo Tomás|
|Parada frente a Escuela Richard N.||Centro Comer-cial El Dorado||Parada junto a Panaso-nic|
|Parada Iglesia Hossana||Parada junto a la Latina||Parada junto a Riba Smith|
|Parada Hotel Shera-|
|Plaza Edison||Parada junto a Rode- lag|
|Parada frente al IJA||Cerve-ceria Nacional|
|Parada Centro |
|Parada Plaza Con-|
cìón Iglesia del Carmen
Is there Free Wi-Fi in Panama Airport?
Yes, as a matter of fact, many travelers continue to be impressed by the high-speed internet in the Panama City Tocumen Airport. You can instantly connect to the WiFi of the airport the moment you land. Free connections last for up to120 minutes, and it’s guaranteed to be fast and consistent.
What’s the Cost of the Internet in Panama?
Did you know that the average monthly cost of a broadband package is $72.92? Ukraine has the cheapest monthly internet price in the world at $5 while Mauritania has the most expensive internet priced at $768.16 per month.
Panama has a very affordable monthly internet with an average cost of $20 for standalone broadband packages. Bundle contracts with phone and cable services included are worth $60 per month on average, still below the world’s average monthly internet.
The internet cost in Panama is definitely a great deal. Just compare it to countries like the Philippines whose average monthly broadband package costs $40 despite being 3 steps below Panama’s rank in the world’s internet speed list.
What Are the Types of the Internet in Panama?
Panama has all fixed cable broadband, DSL, satellite internet, and mobile data connections. However, a fixed internet connection hasn’t reached every part of the country yet. Panama mobile data has just expanded its 4G network availability in 2016, too. A bit of a let-down, we agree.
Panama’s fixed, high-speed cable broadband is only available in some cities. These areas also have DSL, the only option available for underdeveloped areas. DSL connection in Panama is fast, but it’s unreliable due to frequent speed fluctuation. There’s satellite internet available in every corner of Panama, but it’s a lot more expensive.
Here are the full details about the speeds and availability of each internet type in Panama:
|Internet||Area Coverage||Average Speed|
Other major cities with phone
and internet lines
|Download: 16.83 Mbps Upload: 7.96 Mbps|
|DSL||All cities and some remote areas||Download: 5 MbpsUpload: 2 Mbps|
|Satellite||Focused on areas without phone |
and internet lines like in some
parts of Chiriqui
|Download via satellite: 400Kbps/ 0.4 MbpsUpload via cellular: 144Kbps/0.144 Mbps|
|Mobile Data (LTE)||Aguadulce|
Aserrío de Gariche
Boca del Monte
Calle a Cañas
La Villa de Los Santos
*Area coverage depends on the carrier. Digicel has the largest coverage.
|Overall speed: 7.03 Mbps, ranking poorly at 62nd out of 87 countries.|
What are the Best Panama Internet Service Providers?
Panama has competitive internet service providers, all fighting to cover as many locations as possible and become the fastest fixed internet provider in the country. Among the several companies in the country, there are only two of them that stand out, earning global recognition for Panama’s internet.
Cable Onda and Cable & Wireless are the best Panama internet service providers. Cable Onda is even the 2019 Panama’s Speedtest Awards™ Winner, achieving an average of 65.89 Mbps for download and 7.53 Mbps for upload. Cable & Wireless is the second fastest internet in the report, having 62.64 Mbps for download and 9.09 for upload.
The two internet service providers dominate Panama City, Boquete, and Colon, with Cable Onda consistently leading ahead of Cable & Wireless. Cable Onda’s offers start at $33 per month for 20 megabytes with 4 Mbps upload speed. Cable & Wireless has bundles as low as $58 for 173-channel HD TV, 150-megabyte internet, and 200-minute telephone use.
Is the Mobile Internet Service in Panama Fast and Reliable?
Did you know that the mobile internet isn’t really widely used in many countries in North America? It’s just recently that the country has had significant growth in its mobile internet coverage. This is due to digital illiteracy, lack of infrastructural projects in the continent, and populations in remote areas.
However, Panama now has a mobile data penetration rate of 81%. For comparison, Guatemala only has 51% while the US has 88%, so Panama is indeed a leading country in its continent when it comes to the telecom industry. You can definitely rely on mobile data service in Panama with many investments tied around the country’s LTE adoption, just don’t expect much in terms of speed.
These investments are expected to grow drastically at the end of 2020. Until then, Panama already has a great headstart that’s potentially going to level with the US penetration rate soon. The LTE coverage of carriers are beginning to stretch out to remote areas as well, so the use of mobile internet is growing fast and effectively across different areas in Panama.
How to Set up Your Phone for Mobile Data When Visiting Panama?
It’s hard to figure this part out when you’re already in Panama. You don’t want your original carrier to overcharge you for international mobile data services. Setting your phone for mobile data is a bit tricky, so we’ve prepared a guide so you can easily determine your situation and its corresponding solution.
|Locked phone: Phone that’s locked to your current service provider. If you signed a 2-year contract with a carrier for a cheaper phone, it’s locked.|
Note that in 2015, the USA passed a law requiring carriers to unlock their clients’ phones upon request. The only issue is that you can only make such a request if you don’t own the provider any money on your contract or phone.
|Unlocking the phone|
Option 1: Call the 1-800 number for your service provider. Tell them you need your phone unlocked so you could use a local Panama SIM card.
Don’t agree to sign up for any international roaming plan as they will only cost you a lot. You’ll be given a code or a few other things to enter into your phone to finish the unlocking process.
Option 2: There are online unlocking services you can look up. Check eBay for reliable services. Make sure to read reviews first.
Option 3: You can also unlock your phone in Panama. However, you might end up with dodgy services, so we highly advise you choose options 1 or 2 instead.
Option 4: Just buy an unlocked smartphone, at least a cheap decent Android phone. Never use ordinary phones as people in Panama don’t use SMS. They use Whatsapp there.
Sending regular text messages is expensive in Panama. They don’t have unlimited texting plans there, so everyone uses communication apps relying on the internet instead.
|Unlocked phone: Free to use any service provider||Using a Local Panama Provider|
Buy a SIM card from your selected provider. It only costs around $3. Insert the SIM card into your phone. Purchase some minutes or plans. Check out the types of local SIM services section to learn how this works.
Should your chosen service provider not work for you in the long run, you can always switch to another carrier. The SIM cards are cheap anyway. You are most likely to replace your initial carrier depending on whether you’re moving to different areas.
What Are the Types of Local SIM Services in Panama?
Local SIM services in Panama have options for both who are just visiting for a brief period or moving full-time. They have prepaid cards and monthly plans for both regular phone use and mobile data services. Here are the details on how both options work:
Pay as You Go
You can buy minutes and internet use with expiry or data consumption limits. This is the best option for you if you’re only planning to vacation in Panama. However, prepaid mobile service sells regular phone use and internet services separately.
To Buy Minutes
Go to grocery stores or other shops and ask for a “tarjeta de (name of your carrier)”. Tarjeta means card. The cashier will ask you how much load you want on your card. Start with $5 cards as high-value cards are only a waste of money in case you don’t consume all of it or if it doesn’t work.
Once you’ve got the card, just scratch off the scratch-off part that reveals your load code. Then dial *312 following the code. Hit call or send. You’ll have to listen to a recorded message in Spanish that pays before you hit send. If you hear “cinco balboas” which means $5, it means your transaction was successful.
If it doesn’t work, just try it again. You usually have to try the second time for it to work. You can just keep reloading your phone by buying a new card or topping up online. Your provider texts you instructions on how to do that online. If they don’t, you can always ask a local or check the carrier’s website for information.
Take note that minutes expire. You have up to 2 months to consume them.
To Buy Mobile Data
You can always use your prepaid value for either minutes or internet. However, it’s expensive to use your load for mobile data. You need to convert your value into a much more cost-efficient data package.
- For MasMovil, dial *456# send
- For Claro, dial *111# send
- For Digicel, dial *111# send
- For Movistar, dial *888# send
Doing so will lead you to an on-screen setup that asks what you want to buy and how much of it you need. All providers have Spanish prompts, but they’re easy to figure out on your own. Choose “paquete de datos” and agree to buy (comprar) whatever data package you selected.
It’s wiser to get a monthly mobile data plan if you’re staying in Panama for a few months. Unlike in the US, Panama only has monthly contracts so you don’t have to worry about year-long lock-ins. These mobile plans already come in text + call + data bundles.
The price highly depends on the amount of data you need for the month. On average, monthly phone plans cost around $17. There are definitely cheaper deals than this, so make sure to consult your carrier about their offers.
What Are the Best Mobile Data Providers in Panama?
There are five mobile data providers in Panama that remain closely competitive with each other. They all have reliable and fast services that it’s only a matter of personal preference when it comes to determining which is the best. To help you decide according to your needs, we’ve rounded up the pros and cons for each carrier.
|Más Móvil||Only carrier in Panama offering VoWiFi and VoLTE on iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and Note lines and select Huawei phone units|
Affordable packages starting as low as $3 for 650 MB valid for 3 days
|Complicated combo packages for data top-ups|
|Claro||Coverage extends to major regions in Panama|
Claro mall stands usually hand out SIM cards for free
|Not so cheap with plans starting at $1 for only 150 MB data and 20 mins call valid for just a day|
|Movistar||Great data deals like their 7-day unlimited data + 25 mins/SMS to domestic operators, international calls to 13 countries priced at only $5|
Flexible and affordable roaming options
|SIM cards are only available in their own stores|
|Digicel||Widest coverage in the entire country|
4G/LTE and 4.5G/LTE Pro
Offers the best roaming services; For only $25, you get a roaming plan with 200 MB data valid in 78 countries for 14 days.
Offers unlimited data packages
Availble in many stores and outlets
|Política de Uso Justo (FUP) limits the SIM’s use in dongles. Strictly for smartphones and tablets only.|
Although Digicel may seem like the best option, the rest of the carriers still have cheaper deals on data. Also, other providers are widely available in major regions, so you can still rely on them if you’re not planning on staying in remote areas only Digicel can reach.
Do T-Mobile Data Services Work in Panama?
If you’re using T-Mobile, you won’t have to unlock your phone anymore to access the mobile internet in Panama. TMobile data has unlimited texting and data (3G only) available in Panama and in over 210 other countries. This means your mobile data is still too limited that you can’t stream or do high-load activities.
However, your TMobile data won’t work in Panama for extended periods. If you’re planning on living in Panama, the provider will keep sending you messages reminding you that you can’t use 50% of your voice and data off-network. This is a serious violation of TMobile’s terms that can affect your service.
TMobile also has cheaper deals for customers age 55 or older. It’s worth checking out, especially that the costs of their international services can be unpredictable at times. It’s better to get a sure affordable package if you’re not planning to get a local service provider at all.
Are there Any Hosting Services in Panama?
As mentioned earlier, Panama is an ideal location for offshore businesses. It’s not just because of its high-speed internet and much laidback and close-to-nature appeal. It’s just that hosting services in Panama are also highly available.
Yes, there are reliable hosting services targeting Panama. There are at least five of them that rank the best in terms of overall performance and user ratings. Here are as follows:
- Panama Server
- CCI Hosting
- Offshore Racks
The website language of the following servers is all in English so you can review them thoroughly.
Are There Internet Laws in Panama?
There are not many strict internet laws in Panama so you don’t have to worry about that. There are only these Panama internet privacy laws made for the protection of the users anyway.
There are no government restrictions on internet use in Panama. However, there are reports that the government monitors private emails, as well as crime suspects’ computers that usually lead to sex crime arrests. So nothing to worry about unless you’re harboring some criminal plans in your end.
The only problem Panamanians see in their internet laws is how the government lightly impedes the freedom of speech on the media. The current administration allegedly threatens journalists using the internet to report sensitive cases happening in the country.
Panama’s internet speed is undeniably fast and reliable compared to its neighboring countries. It may not be on the top charts of the world’s fastest internet list, but it’s set to rank higher in the near future.
Many private companies are now recognizing the potential of Panama to become a center of telecommunications. After all, it already has a booming infrastructural industry, paving the way for modernizing remote areas without phone or internet lines.
It’s certainly worth retiring there and experience that likely evolution in the country’s internet speed and reliability. The current service providers there are already competitive enough to keep you connected whether for just a short vacation or a retirement stay.
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