Getting a SIM card for your trip to Ascension Island is a must because WIFI hotspots barely exist on this island.
Internet is expensive in Ascension Island because they still use satellite connections for internet instead of submarine cables, which transfer more than 99% of internet traffic nowadays.
Besides that, international roaming is not possible in Ascension Island, except for a handful of operators. Even then, international roaming in Ascension island is expensive.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Ascension island. Let's get started.
Telecom Operator, Networks, and Frequencies in Ascension Island
Ascension has one telecom operator:
Sure Ascension Island has 2G and 4G/LTE networks.
The following frequencies are used by Sure Ascension Island:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)
The Best Prepaid SIM Card in Ascension Island
If you want to buy a SIM card in Ascension Island, then Sure is your only option. Do note that the price of 1 GB of data would cost you more than 100 GBP.
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SIM Card Registration Regulations in Ascension Island
Unlike most countries in Africa, you do not have to register your passport details when buying a SIM card in Ascension Island. It is so remote that some have difficulty categorizing the Ascension Island to which continent it belongs to (Africa or South America).
The State of the Telecom Market in Ascension Island
(This section is not potent to learn how to get a SIM card in Ascension Island, and the prices for the packages offered by the local operators. However, it does give you background information on how the Ascension Island telecom market is, and it explains why things are how they are. If you are simply interested in getting a SIM card in Ascension Island, click here to jump to Sure Ascension Island.)
The Ascension Island is a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The island is still thousands of kilometers away from any shore.
Unlike other island nations in Africa that are relatively close to continental Africa (Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mayotte, and Réunion), Ascension Island, together with Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha, are not linked to any submarine cables. As a result, they have to rely on satellite connections, which are much slower than submarine cables and much more expensive.
Even the government of Ascension Island states that the use of the internet is expensive in their information for new Ascension Island Government Staff document and confirms the satellite use and slowness of the internet.
To give you an idea of how expensive satellite use is, the largest prepaid data bundle you can get is 250 MB for 20 GBP, which comes down to about 25 USD. The average cost for 1 GB of data in Africa is 6.45 USD, according to a study done by the Alliance 4 Affordable Internet (A4AI). If Sure Ascension Island allowed you to buy multiple data bundles at the same time, which they do not, you would pay 80 GBP for 1000 MB (1 GB = 1024 MB), or about 100 USD. That is 15 times the African average.
But because Sure Ascension Island does not allow you to purchase multiple data bundles at the same time, you would have to deal with standard data rates after exhausting your data bundle.
Let’s say you purchase the 250 MB bundles (20 GBP – 25 USD) and use up to 1 GB while you are on the island. The standard data rate is 0.12 GBP/MB. 1024 MB – 250 MB = 774 MB. 0.12 GBP * 774 MB = 92.88 GBP (115.95 USD). 92.88 GBP + 20 GBP = 112.88 GBP (140.90 USD). 1 GB of data in Ascension Island would cost at least 140.90 USD, which is quadruple the price average price for 1 GB of data in Equatorial Guinea, the most expensive country to get mobile data on mainland Africa.
If you plan on using free WIFI hotspots instead, think again. Residential broadband internet packages are priced at 56.98 GBP for 4 GB/month and 139.75 GBP for about 14 GB/month with capped download speeds (1 Mbps and 1.5 Mbps, respectively), according to Sure Ascension Island. Businesses can get around 67 GB/month for 1448.03 GBP, so it is unlikely that free hotspots are widely available, or available at all.
There is good news, however. SAEx1, also known as South Atlantic Express, is a planned submarine cable that wants to link Cape Town, South Africa, to Fortaleza, Brazil. The cable will also have branches to Ascension Island, which will (finally) result in more accessible and affordable internet, as the island territory will not have to depend on satellites anymore.
The SEAx1 cable currently has a Ready For Service date (RFS) in the 3rd quarter of 2021. Hopefully, affordable and fast internet will be a thing in Ascension Island from then on.
Currency in Ascension Island
Ascension Island uses the Pound Sterling, which is also known as the British Pound with the symbol GBP (which will be used throughout this article). Prices in Ascension Island are listed in £. For example, 25 GBP is £25. For reference, below are some exchange rates between GBP and USD (US Dollars – Rounded):
- 1 GBP = 1.25 USD
- 10 GBP = 12.30 USD
- 100 GBP = 123.00 USD
For up-to-date GBP:USD exchange rates, search GBP to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Transferwise Borderless Account and Debit Card. Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Transferwise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks). I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Transferwise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Transferwise account FREE!
Ascension Island Prepaid SIM Card
Below, I will guide you through Sure Ascension Island and go through:
- Background information about Sure Ascension Island
- How to get a SIM card from Sure Ascension Island
- How to recharge your Sure Ascension Island SIM card
- What type of data-featured packages are offered by Sure Ascension Island
With that being said, let’s see what Sure Ascension Island has to offer to us.
Sure Ascension Island
Sure Ascension Island, officially known as Sure South Atlantic but will be referred to as just “Sure,” is the sole operator in Ascension Island.
Getting a Sure Ascension Island Prepaid SIM Card
You can buy a Sure SIM card, called Sure Pay As You Go (PAYG) for 30 GBP in the Sure store in Georgetown. The SIM card comes with 10 GBP in credit. You may have to call 453 to activate your Sure PAYG SIM card.
A Sure SIM card will initially be valid for 60 days and will not expire as long as it is active. Sure considers an account to be inactive if it has not used data, made a call, or send an SMS for 60 days.
Topping-Up Your Sure Ascension Island Prepaid SIM Card
You can buy Sure top-up cards in the Sure store and from other retailers. To top-up, dial *177*VoucherCode*. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *177*123456#. Dial *178# to check your Sure balance.
Sure Ascension Island Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers
Sure has only two data bundles, which are:
|10 GBP||100 MB||30 days||*173*100#|
|20 GBP||250 MB||30 days||*173*250#|
These are, indeed, small data bundles. The standard data rate is 0.12 GBP/MB, which comes down to 122.88 GBP/GB.
Sure Ascension Island APN Settings
In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct APN settings automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):
- Name: SUREASC
- APN: SUREASC
Is There A Cheaper Way to Get Mobile Data in Ascension Island?
Normally, getting a local prepaid SIM card of the destination you are visiting is the best way to stay connected when traveling. However, you have already learned that SIM cards and mobile data are expensive in Ascension Island.
Reasonably priced mobile hotspots do not work here.
My favorite international SIM card, Surfroam, will charge you 15 EUR/MB or 15 360 EUR/GB. Travel SIM cards covering Ascension islands do not seem to exist (and if you manage to find one, they will charge you outrageous rates.
International roaming is usually expensive, especially compared to local data or combo packages.
Sure Ascension Island has partnered up with several operators abroad, which allow them to roam internationally in Ascension Island, which are:
|Roaming Partner||Services Available||Service Type|
|O2 UK||Voice, SMS & Data||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Vodafone UK||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|3 Austria||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Sure Falkland Islands||Voice, SMS & Data||Postpaid|
|Ooredoo Qatar||Voice, SMS & Data||Postpaid|
|Verizon (USA)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|SOFTBANK Corp (Japan)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|MTN (South Africa)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Telecom Italia (TIM)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Sure – Jersey / Guernsey & Isle of Man||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|T-Mobile USA||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|CV Móvel (Cape Verde)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Cell C ( South Africa)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|Sure St Helena*||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
* Not officially mentioned on the roaming page of Sure Ascension Island, but Sure St Helena confirms you can roam with a Sure St Helena SIM card in Ascension Island (1 GBP/min – SMS rate is unknown)
That is a relatively small list. Moreover, only three operators can data roam on Ascension Island, which are:
O2 UK Roaming in Ascension Island
O2 UK lists St Helena instead as a destination you can roam with if you have an O2 business/corporate subscription. St Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha are often grouped together, so I assume those rates apply to Ascension Island as well.
With O2 UK’s business roaming, you have two options for roaming in Ascension Island: Rest of World 24 Hour Pass & Rest of the World 30 Pass.
The Rest of the World 24 hour pass costs 7.50 GBP and comes with 5 MB for 24 hours. Moreover, you will be charged 1.20 GBP/min for making a local call or a call back to the UK. Incoming calls are charged at 0.85 GBP/min, and sending an SMS will cost you 0.40 GBP.
The Rest of the World 30 Day Pass costs 99 GBP and comes with 50 MB for 30 days. A local call or a call to the UK will costs you 1.20 GBP/min. Receiving a call costs 0.85 GBP/min, and sending an SMS will cost you 0.40 GBP/SMS.
Ooredoo Qatar Roaming in Ascension Island
Sure Falkland Island Roaming in Ascension Island
Sure Falkland Islands only lists their call and SMS rates. Moreover, Sure Ascension Island is not even mentioned on their preferred roaming partners list.
In short, there does not seem to be a cheaper way to get on the internet while in Ascension Island, unless you are staying there for more than a year. Then you can consider getting a postpaid plan that comes with better benefits, but they require a 12-month commitment, which is not reasonable for short-term visitors.
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